The term "acute interstitial pneumonia" (AIP) describes an idiopathic clinicopathological condition, characterized clinically by an interstitial lung disease causing rapid onset of respiratory failure, which is distinguishable from the other more chronic forms of interstitial pneumonia. It is synonymous with Hamman-Rich syndrome, occurring in patients without pre-existing lung disease. The histopathological findings are those of diffuse alveolar damage. AIP radiologically and physiologically resembles acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and is considered to represent the small subset of patients with idiopathic ARDS. It is frequently confused with other clinical entities characterized by rapidly progressive interstitial pneumonia, especially secondary acute interstitial pneumonia, acute exacerbations and accelerated forms of cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis . Furthermore, many authors use the above terms, both erroneously and interchangeably. It has a grave prognosis with >70% mortality in 3 months, despite mechanical ventilation. This review aims to clarify the relative clinical and pathological issues and terminology.