The MDR superfamily with ~350-residue subunits contains the classical liver alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), quinone reductase, leukotriene B4 dehydrogenase and many more forms. ADH is a dimeric zinc metalloprotein and occurs as five different classes in humans, resulting from gene duplications during vertebrate evolution, the first one traced to ~500 MYA (million years ago) from an ancestral formaldehyde dehydrogenase line. Like many duplications at that time, it correlates with enzymogenesis of new activities, contributing to conditions for emergence of vertebrate land life from osseous fish. The speed of changes correlates with function, as do differential evolutionary patterns in separate segments. Subsequent recognitions now define at least 40 human MDR members in the Uniprot database (corresponding to 25 genes when excluding close homologues), and in all species at least 10888 entries. Overall, variability is large, but like for many dehydrogenases, subdivided into constant and variable forms, corresponding to household and emerging enzyme activities, respectively. This review covers basic facts and describes eight large MDR families and nine smaller families. Combined, they have specific substrates in metabolic pathways, some with wide substrate specificity, and several with little known functions.