A phylogenetic analysis of the polychaete clade Terebelliformia (Terebellida) was undertaken in order to test monophyly of families and subfamilies and to determine their affinities. Parsimony analyses of 41 terebelliform species with outgroup Owenia fusiformis and 46 morphological characters yielded 106–144 most parsimonious trees with length 250, consistency index=0·432, retention index=0·659 and rescaled consistency index=0·285. Monophyly was indicated for Alvinellidae, Ampharetidae, Terebellidae and Trichobranchidae and the terebellid subfamily Polycirrinae. Monophyly of Terebellidae is supported by the presence of a ridge-like tentacular membrane. Monophyly of Polycirrinae is supported by the loss of branchiae, trilobed upper lip, pinnate secondary notochaetae and ventro-lateral pads. Recognition of Polycirrinae renders taxa in the other terebellid subfamilies—Terebellinae and Thelepodinae—paraphyletic. Our results do not support previous classifications that placed Trichobranchidae as a subfamily of Terebellidae; rather it should be considered equal in rank with Alvinellidae, Ampharetidae, Terebellidae and Pectinariidae. The following relationships were obtained: (Trichobranchidae ((Alvinellidae, Ampharetidae) (Pectinariidae, Terebellidae))). This is the first time a Pectinariidae–Terebellidae sister group relationship has been found; it is supported by the synapomorphic presence of ventral glandular shields.