Nematode parasites cause significant infections in both humans and animals. They are complex, multicellular organisms that present unique challenges for the host, in particular with respect to the recognition of their unusual surface structures by the innate defence system. The innate immune system is now recognized to be a critical component in the development of an adaptive effector response as well as a driver of vaccine-induced immunity. This paper will give an overview of current research on the innate barriers and immune mechanisms, cells, and receptors involved in the innate host response to nematode parasites. It will also review the 'nematode-associated molecular patterns' that may be specifically recognized by the host, in addition to other signals, such as nervous stimulation and tissue damage, that may alert the innate system to parasite invasion.