Genomic imprinting, the parent of origin-dependent expression of genes, has been discovered as a fascinating example of the control of gene expression by epigenetic processes in the human body. It affects about 100 genes, which are often involved in growth and development. In this Review, we discuss the mechanisms leading to the generation of gender-specific imprints in form of DNA methylation marks, their preservation during growth and development of the organism, and the processes that translate parental methylation marks into monoallelic gene expression. We discuss the gender-specific dimorphic nature of imprints from an evolutionary point of view and present the prevalent model that molecular imprinting mediates a conflict of interest between the parents that occurs in viviparous animals. Finally, we summarize the relevance of parental imprinting for human health.