Differences in opinion regarding the development of the infrahepatic inferior caval and azygos venous systems in mammals centre on the contributions of 'caudal cardinal', 'subcardinal', 'supracardinal', 'medial and lateral sympathetic line' and 'sacrocardinal' veins. The disagreements appear to arise from the use of topographical position rather than developmental origin as criterion to define separate venous systems. We reinvestigated the issue in a closely spaced series of human embryos between 4 and 10 weeks of development. Structures were visualized with the Amira((R)) reconstruction and Cinema4D((R)) remodelling software. The vertebral level and neighbouring structures were used as topographic landmarks. The main results were that the caudal cardinal veins extended caudally from the common cardinal vein between CS11 and CS15, followed by the development of the subcardinal veins as a plexus sprouting ventrally from the caudal cardinal veins. The caudal cardinal veins adapted their course from lateral to medial relative to the laterally expanding lungs, adrenal glands, definitive kidneys, sympathetic trunk and umbilical arteries between CS15 and CS18, and then became interrupted in the part overlaying the regressing mesonephroi (Th12-L3). The caudal part of the left caudal cardinal vein then also regressed. The infrarenal part of the inferior caval vein originated from the right caudal cardinal vein, while the renal part originated from subcardinal veins. The azygos veins developed from the remaining cranial part of the caudal cardinal veins. Our data show that all parts of the inferior caval and azygos venous systems developed directly from the caudal cardinal veins or from a plexus sprouting from these veins.