Stem and progenitor cells are populations of cells that retain the capacity to populate specific lineages and to transit this capacity through cell division. However, attempts to define markers for stem cells have met with limited success. Here we consider whether this limited success reflects an intrinsic requirement for heterogeneity with stem cell populations. We focus on Embryonic Stem (ES) cells, in vitro derived cell lines from the early embryo that are considered both pluripotent (able to generate all the lineages of the future embryo) and indefinitely self renewing. We examine the relevance of recently reported heterogeneities in ES cells and whether these heterogeneities themselves are inherent requirements of functional potency and self renewal.