In this review, we summarise the patterns of bone marrow involvement by small B-cell lymphomas. Both our own experience and the literature reports on the subject show that each subtype of lymphoma can be recognised from a distinct combination of a suggestive growth pattern and a particular cytological composition. A predominantly paratrabecular infiltrate composed of centrocytes is characteristic of follicle centre cell lymphoma. In mantle cell lymphoma, prominent intertrabecular nodules, each consisting of a monotonous proliferation of small to intermediate-sized lymphoid cells with an irregular nucleus, are the most frequent finding. Marginal zone cell lymphoma displays similar intertrabecular nodules, but the infiltrates are rather loose and polymorphic, whereas the lymphoid cells exhibit monocytoid features. Diffuse infiltrates composed of small lymphocytes with clumped chromatin, of plasma cells with Dutcher bodies and of mast cells are observed in most cases of lymphoplasmacytoid lymphoma/immunocytoma. Although chronic lymphocytic leukaemia / small lymphocytic lymphoma can present with a comparable pattern of bone marrow involvement, an interstitial infiltrate of small lymphoid cells is usually observed. A comparable interstitial pattern also prevails in hairy cell leukaemia. This lymphoma subtype, however, can be readily identified by the abundant clear cytoplasm of the neoplastic cells, erythrocyte extravasation and associated abnormalities in the haematopoietic series.