The nature of early T lineage progenitors in the thymus or bone marrow remains controversial. Here we assess lineage capacity and proliferative potential among five distinct components of the earliest intrathymic stage (DN1, CD25(-)44(+)). All of these express one or more hemato-lymphoid lineage markers. All can produce T lineage cells, but only two of them display kinetics of differentiation, proliferative capacity, and other traits consistent with being canonical T progenitors. The latter also appeared limited to producing cells of the T or NK lineages, while B lineage potential derived mainly from the other, less typical T progenitors. In addition to precisely defining canonical early progenitors in the thymus, this work reconciles conflicting results from numerous groups by showing that multiple progenitors with a DN1 phenotype home to the thymus and make T cells, but possess different proliferative potentials and lineage capacities.