With the advent of technologies for the derivation of embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed stem cells, use of the term "pluripotent" has become widespread. Despite its increased scientific and political importance, there are ambiguities with this designation and a common standard for experimental approaches that precisely define this state in human cells remains elusive. Recent studies have revealed that reprogramming may occur via many pathways which do not always lead to pluripotency. In addition, the pluripotent state itself appears to be highly dynamic, leading to significant variability in the results of molecular studies. Establishment of a stringent set of criteria for defining pluripotency will be vital for biological studies and potential clinical applications in this rapidly evolving field. In this review, we explore the various definitions of pluripotency, examine the current status of pluripotency testing in the field and provide an analysis of how these assays have been used to establish pluripotency in the scientific literature.