This review compiles the current knowledge of normal and abnormal myocardial morphogenesis to facilitate an unambiguous diagnosis of primary myocardial noncompaction. During the early stages of development, the formation of trabeculae with the resulting increase in myocardial surface is a adaptation of the rapidly growing heart to improve nourishment by exchange diffusion from the cardiac lumen. Once the coronary vasculature has developed, the switch to cardiac nutrient supply through active circulation from the subepicardial space is paralleled by gradual compaction of the myocardial trabeculae. This results in a decrease of the inner, trabeculated myocardial layer with a parallel increase in thickness of the outer, compact myocardial layer. Similar to the direction of coronary arterial development, this process proceeds from the epicardium toward the endocardium and from the base of the heart to the apex. Based on developmental data, congenital myocardial noncompaction represents a failure of normal embryonic myocardial maturation. The time of arrest of this process will determine the extension of myocardial noncompaction within the ventricle. Whereas disturbances of myocardial microcirculation are frequent in these hearts, direct communications between the myocardial cavity and the coronary arteries (sinusoids) do not belong to this morphogenetic entity.