BACKGROUND: The kinesin motor protein family consists of 14 distinct subclasses and 45 kinesin proteins in humans. A large number of these proteins, or their orthologues, have been shown to possess essential function(s) in both the mitotic and the meiotic cell cycle. Kinesins have important roles in chromosome separation, microtubule dynamics, spindle formation, cytokinesis and cell cycle progression. This article contains a review of the literature with respect to the role of kinesin motor proteins in female meiosis in model species. Throughout, we discuss the function of each class of kinesin proteins during oocyte meiosis, and where such data are not available their role in mitosis is considered. Finally, the review highlights the potential clinical importance of this family of proteins for human oocyte quality. OBJECTIVE AND RATIONALE: To examine the role of kinesin motor proteins in oocyte meiosis. SEARCH METHODS: A search was performed on the Pubmed database for journal articles published between January 1970 and February 2017. Search terms included 'oocyte kinesin' and 'meiosis kinesin' in addition to individual kinesin names with the terms oocyte or meiosis. OUTCOMES: Within human cells 45 kinesin motor proteins have been discovered, with the role of only 13 of these proteins, or their orthologues, investigated in female meiosis. Furthermore, of these kinesins only half have been examined in mammalian oocytes, despite alterations occurring in gene transcripts or protein expression with maternal ageing, cryopreservation or behavioral conditions, such as binge drinking, for many of them. WIDER IMPLICATIONS: Kinesin motor proteins have distinct and important roles throughout oocyte meiosis in many non-mammalian model species. However, the functions these proteins have in mammalian meiosis, particularly in humans, are less clear owing to lack of research. This review brings to light the need for more experimental investigation of kinesin motor proteins, particularly those associated with maternal ageing, cryopreservation or exposure to environmental toxicants.