In mammalian genomes, the methylation of cytosine residues within CpG dinucleotides is crucial to normal development and cell differentiation. However, methylation of cytosines in the contexts of CpA, CpT, and CpC (non-CpG methylation) has been reported for decades, yet remains poorly understood. In recent years, whole genome bisulphite sequencing (WGBS) has confirmed significant levels of non-CpG methylation in specific tissues and cell types. Non-CpG methylation has several properties that distinguish it from CpG methylation. Here we review the literature describing non-CpG methylation in mammalian cells, describe the important characteristics that distinguish it from CpG methylation, and discuss its functional importance.