The glucocorticoid receptor (GR) belongs to the steroid hormone receptor subclass of nuclear receptors and controls physiological processes through activation and repression of specific target genes. The ligand-activated receptor dimer activates gene expression by binding to specific DNA sequences (glucocorticoid response element, GRE) in the promoter regions of glucocorticoid-regulated genes. In contrast to the regulation of these classical GREs, the repression of negatively regulated target genes is mediated by negative GREs (nGRE), composite GREs or by transrepression. Due to their broad therapeutic spectrum and superior therapeutic effects glucocorticoids (GCs) are the most effective drugs used for the treatment of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. Unfortunately, long term systemic therapy with GCs is restricted due to their metabolic side effects. It is assumed that transrepression of transcription factors such as AP-1 and NF-kB is the main mechanism by which glucocorticoids mediate their anti-inflammatory activity, whereas the side effects of GCs are mainly mediated by GR-DNA-interaction either by activation or by negative regulation of gene expression. While trans-repression has been characterized in detail, the molecular mechanisms of DNA-dependent cis-repression remain unclear. In this review, we focus on current knowledge about nGRE-mediated target gene repression and the relevance and function of these genes for glucocorticoid action. Negative GREs contribute to the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (POMC and CRH), bone (osteocalcin) and skin (keratins) function, inflammation (IL-1β), angiogenesis (proliferin) and lactation (prolactin). The discovery of the underlying mechanisms, especially the comparison to positive GREs and trans-repression may help in the future to discover and analyze novel selective GR agonists.