Nontranslational functions of vertebrate aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (aaRSs), which catalyze the production of aminoacyl-tRNAs for protein synthesis, have recently been discovered. Although these new functions were thought to be 'moonlighting activities', many are as critical for cellular homeostasis as their activity in translation. New roles have been associated with their cytoplasmic forms as well as with nuclear and secreted extracellular forms that affect pathways for cardiovascular development and the immune response and mTOR, IFN-γ and p53 signaling. The associations of aaRSs with autoimmune disorders, cancers and neurological disorders further highlight nontranslational functions of these proteins. New architecture elaborations of the aaRSs accompany their functional expansion in higher organisms and have been associated with the nontranslational functions for several aaRSs. Although a general understanding of how these functions developed is limited, the expropriation of aaRSs for essential nontranslational functions may have been initiated by co-opting the amino acid-binding site for another purpose.