Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are important starter, commensal, or pathogenic microorganisms. The stress physiology of LAB has been studied in depth for over 2 decades, fueled mostly by the technological implications of LAB robustness in the food industry. Survival of probiotic LAB in the host and the potential relatedness of LAB virulence to their stress resilience have intensified interest in the field. Thus, a wealth of information concerning stress responses exists today for strains as diverse as starter (e.g., Lactococcus lactis), probiotic (e.g., several Lactobacillus spp.), and pathogenic (e.g., Enterococcus and Streptococcus spp.) LAB. Here we present the state of the art for LAB stress behavior. We describe the multitude of stresses that LAB are confronted with, and we present the experimental context used to study the stress responses of LAB, focusing on adaptation, habituation, and cross-protection as well as on self-induced multistress resistance in stationary phase, biofilms, and dormancy. We also consider stress responses at the population and single-cell levels. Subsequently, we concentrate on the stress defense mechanisms that have been reported to date, grouping them according to their direct participation in preserving cell energy, defending macromolecules, and protecting the cell envelope. Stress-induced responses of probiotic LAB and commensal/pathogenic LAB are highlighted separately due to the complexity of the peculiar multistress conditions to which these bacteria are subjected in their hosts. Induction of prophages under environmental stresses is then discussed. Finally, we present systems-based strategies to characterize the "stressome" of LAB and to engineer new food-related and probiotic LAB with improved stress tolerance.