Hormesis refers to adaptive responses of biological systems to moderate environmental or self-imposed challenges through which the system improves its functionality and/or tolerance to more severe challenges. The past two decades have witnessed an expanding recognition of the concept of hormesis, elucidation of its evolutionary foundations, and underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms, and practical applications to improve quality of life. To better inform future basic and applied research, we organized and re-evaluated recent hormesis-related findings with the intent of incorporating new knowledge of biological mechanisms, and providing fundamental insights into the biological, biomedical and risk assessment implications of hormesis. As the literature on hormesis is expanding rapidly into new areas of basic and applied research, it is important to provide refined conceptualization of hormesis to aid in designing and interpreting future studies. Here, we establish a working compartmentalization of hormesis into ten categories that provide an integrated understanding of the biological meaning and applications of hormesis.