Silicon photonics is playing a key role in areas as diverse as high-speed optical communications, neural networks, supercomputing, quantum photonics, and sensing, which demand the development of highly efficient and compact light-processing devices. The lithographic segmentation of silicon waveguides at the subwavelength scale enables the synthesis of artificial materials that significantly expand the design space in silicon photonics. The optical properties of these metamaterials can be controlled by a judicious design of the subwavelength grating geometry, enhancing the performance of nanostructured devices without jeopardizing ease of fabrication and dense integration. Recently, the anisotropic nature of subwavelength gratings has begun to be exploited, yielding unprecedented capabilities and performance such as ultrabroadband behavior, engineered modal confinement, and sophisticated polarization management. Here we provide a comprehensive review of the field of subwavelength metamaterials and their applications in silicon photonics. We first provide an in-depth analysis of how the subwavelength geometry synthesizes the metamaterial and give insight into how properties like refractive index or anisotropy can be tailored. The latest applications are then reviewed in detail, with a clear focus on how subwavelength structures improve device performance. Finally, we illustrate the design of two ground-breaking devices in more detail and discuss the prospects of subwavelength gratings as a tool for the advancement of silicon photonics.