Heterocyclic compounds hold a special place among pharmaceutically important natural and synthetic materials. The remarkable ability of heterocyclic nuclei to serve both as biomimetics and reactive pharmacophores has largely contributed to their unique value as traditional key elements of numerous drugs. In both lead identification and lead optimization processes there is an acute need for new organic small molecules. Traditional methods of organic synthesis are orders of magnitude too slow to satisfy the demand for these compounds. The fields of combinatorial and automated medicinal chemistry have been developed to meet the increasing requirement of new compounds for drug discovery, within these fields, speed is of the essence. The efficiency of microwave flash-heating chemistry in dramatically reducing reaction times (reduced from days and hours to minutes and seconds) has recently been proven in several different fields of organic chemistry. We believe that the time saved by using focused microwaves is potentially important in traditional organic synthesis but could be of even greater importance in high-speed combinatorial and medicinal chemistry. In this review, it is impossible to cover all significant developments in the area of microwave-assisted organic synthesis (MAOS). Rather, outlines the basic principles behind the technology and summarizes the areas in which microwave technology has made an impact, to date. Specific attention is given to application of microwave irradiation in liquid systems, and in the solid state as well of several representative biologically interesting nuclei. In addition we report some of the most recently disclosed applications in combinatorial chemistry.