The scaleworm genus Pholoe (formerly referred to Sigalionidae) is common and often abundant in marine benthos. In Northern Europe, 1-3 species may be present in a single sample but not recognized as distinct, or one species may be reported under different names in different studies. This results in an undervaluation of diversity and precludes comparison between data sets. Four valid species of Pholoe are common in nearshore European waters, but inadequate descriptions and species misinterpretation have resulted in most of these being misidentified as the western North Atlantic P. minuta, not known to occur in European waters. The present note attempts to resolve this confusion; it is based on examination of thousands of specimens, many of them alive, from northern Europe and elsewhere. An illustrated key and notes with brief synonymies for four nearshore northern European species are provided; use of Shirlastain A for temporarily darkening protruding structures is described. Pholoe inornata (type species of the genus), P. baltica and P. assimilis (resurrected) are briefly characterized.