Amplitudes of seismic waves increase significantly as they pass through soft soil layers near the earth's surface. This phenomenon, commonly known as site amplification, is a major factor influencing the extent of damage on structures. It is crucial that site amplification is accounted for when designing structures on soft soils. The characteristics of site amplification at a given site can be estimated by analytical models, as well as field tests. Analytical models require as inputs the geometry of all soil layers from surface to bedrock, their dynamic properties (e.g. density, wave velocity, damping), and the incident bedrock motions. Field tests involve recording and analyzing the dynamic response of sites to artificial excitations, ambient forces, and actual earthquakes. The most reliable estimates of site amplification are obtained by analyzing the recorded motions of the site during strong earthquakes. This paper presents a review of the types and the generating mechanisms of site amplification, and the models and methods that are used to characterize them from earthquake records. ?? 2001 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.