Plasma protein factor XII (FXII) activates the procoagulant and proinflammatory contact system that drives both the kallikrein–kinin system and the intrinsic pathway of coagulation. When zymogen FXII comes into contact with negatively charged surfaces, it auto-activates to the serine proteaseactivated FXII (FXIIa). Recently, various in vivo activators of FXII have been identified including heparin, misfolded protein aggregates, polyphosphate and nucleic acids. Murine models have established a central role of FXII in arterial and venous thrombosis. Despite its central function in thrombosis, deficiency in FXII does not impair haemostasis in animals and humans. In a preclinical cardiopulmonary bypass system in large animals, the FXIIa-blocking antibody 3F7 prevented thrombosis; however, in contrast to traditional anticoagulants, bleeding was not increased. In addition to its function in thrombosis, FXIIa initiates formation of the inflammatory mediator bradykinin. This mediator increases vascular leak, causes vasodilation, and induces chemotaxis with implications for septic, anaphylactic and allergic disease states. Therefore, targeting FXIIa appears to be a promising strategy for thromboprotection without associated bleeding risks but with anti-inflammatory properties.