Solitary or clustered, moderate to tall, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palms. Stems erect, bare, conspicuously ringed with leaf scars, often bearing a mass of adventitious roots at the base, where clustering, the clump rather close, or more rarely diffusely spreading by stolons. Leaves pinnate, neatly abscising; sheaths tubular, forming a well-defined crownshaft, brilliantly orange-red coloured in 1 species (Cyrtostachys renda), glabrous or scaly; petiole short to long, adaxially channelled or flattened, abaxially rounded or angled, glabrous or scaly; rachis like the petiole but angled adaxially; leaflets always single-fold, acute or acuminate, regularly arranged, often stiff, sometimes ascending, sometimes slightly paler beneath, ± glabrous adaxially, abaxially often with ramenta along the midvein and sometimes minutely dotted between the veins, transverse veinlets conspicuous or obscure. Inflorescence apparently protandrous, infrafoliar, highly branched to 3 orders, rather diffuse and spreading; peduncle usually very short, ± oval in cross-section; prophyll enclosing the inflorescence until leaf fall, borne just above the winged base of the peduncle, tubular, 2-keeled, ±lanceolate, with winged margins, splitting, soon caducous; peduncular bract borne just above the prophyll, completely enclosing the inflorescence, splitting longitudinally like the prophyll, caducous; subsequent bracts very inconspicuous, incomplete, low, triangular; rachis longer than the peduncle; first-order branches robust, spreading, with a short bare portion at the base, then branching to produce diverging rachillae or second-order branches; second-order branches, when not rachillae, also with short bare portion and then branching to produce rachillae; rachillae elongate, cylindrical, rather robust, glabrous, papillose, minutely roughened or indumentose, often brightly coloured, expanding long before anthesis; rachilla bracts low, triangular, spirally arranged, rather crowded, each partially enclosing a shallow pit bearing a triad of flowers, triads borne throughout the length of the rachillae; floral bracteoles membranous, very small and inconspicuous. Staminate flowers with 3, distinct, imbricate, broad, strongly keeled sepals with minutely toothed margins (?always); petals about twice as long as sepals, united at the very base to ca. 1/3 their length, globose or ellipsoidal, apically attached, the hilum orbicular, endosperm distally with 3 triangular, valvate tips; stamens 9–15, the filaments awl-homogeneous; embryo basal. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll bifid shaped, connate basally, apically inflexed in bud, anthers apically and basally with narrow lobes. Cytology: 2n = 32. slightly bilobed, dorsifixed, latrorse; pistillode almost as long as filaments, narrow, elongate, trifid. Pollen ellipsoidal, less frequently, oblate triangular, symmetric or slightly asymmetric; aperture a distal sulcus or trichotomosulcus; ectexine tectate, perforate rugulate, in some species with verrucate or gemmate supratectal processes, aperture margin similar; infratectum columellate; longest axis 27–56 µm; post-meiotic tetrads tetrahedral [2/11]. Pistillate flowers about the same size as or slightly larger than the staminate; sepals 3, distinct, rounded, imbricate, the margins minutely toothed (?always); petals 3, slightly larger than the sepals, distinct, imbricate proximally, asymmetrical, rounded with short triangular valvate tips; staminodal ring membranous, very low, bearing short truncate or irregularly triangular teeth; gynoecium unilocular, ellipsoidal with 3 short recurved stigmas, ovule pendulous from the apex of the locule, form unknown. Fruit 1-seeded, broad to narrow-ellipsoidal, usually black, the perianth whorls persistent, stigmatic remains apical; epicarp smooth, contrasting with the rachilla, mesocarp thin, oily, with abundant longitudinal fibre bundles, endocarp thin, closely adhering to the seed.