We determined the histochemical characteristics of nonspecific esterase in different populations of rat macrophages. The cells included alveolar and peritoneal macrophages recovered by lavage and a mixed cell population obtained by collagenase digestion of the small intestine. The histochemically localized enzyme activity of alveolar and peritoneal macrophages was cytoplasmic, diffuse, and inhibited by sodium fluoride. Both populations were effectively stained using alpha-naphthyl acetate and alpha-naphthyl butyrate as the esterase substrate. When the intestinal cells were examined for activity, a greater percentage of cells showed positive nonspecific esterase than would be predicted by differential counts for macrophages on the basis of morphological criteria. We confirmed, using cell smears and tissue sections, that rat intestinal epithelial cells, a prominent component of the isolated cell population, possessed esterases that react similarly to macrophage esterases with histochemical procedures.