Although microRNAs (miRNAs) are among the most intensively studied molecules of the past 20 years, determining what is and what is not a miRNA has not been straightforward. Here, we present a uniform system for the annotation and nomenclature of miRNA genes. We show that fewer than a third of the 1,881 human miRBase entries, and only approximately 16% of the 7,095 metazoan miRBase entries, are robustly supported as miRNA genes. Furthermore, we show that the human repertoire of miRNAs has been shaped by periods of intense miRNA innovation, and that mature gene products show a very different tempo and mode of sequence evolution than star products. We establish a new open access database -- MirGeneDB ( http://mirgenedb.org) -- to catalog this set of robustly supported miRNAs, which complements the efforts of miRBase, but differs from it by annotating the mature versus star products, and by imposing an evolutionary hierarchy upon this curated and consistently named repertoire.