- January 1 - New York City annexes land from surrounding counties, creating the City of Greater New York. The city is geographically divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
- January 13 - Emile Zola's J'accuse exposes the Dreyfus affair.
- February 7 - Emile Zola is brought to trial for libel for publishing J'Accuse
- February 12 - Henry Lindfield, dies in England. Lindfield was the first fatality from an automobile accident.
- February 15 - Spanish-American War: The USS Maine explodes and sinks in Havana Harbor, Cuba for then unknown reasons killing more than 260. This event helped lead the United States to declare war on Spain.
- February 23 - Emile Zola is imprisoned in France after writing "J'accuse" which was a letter accusing the French government of anti-Semitism and wrongfully placing Alfred Dreyfus in jail.
- March 24 - Robert Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania becomes the first person to buy an American-built automobile when he buys a Winton automobile that was advertised in Scientific American.
- March 26 - The Sabi Game Reserve in South Africa, the first officially designated game reserve
- April 22 - Spanish-American War: The United States Navy begins a blockade of Cuban ports and the USS Nashville captures a Spanish merchant ship.
- April 25 - Spanish-American War: The United States declares war on Spain; the United States Congress announces that a state of war has existed since April 21.
- May 7 - General Bava-Beccaris killed 80 demonstrants in Milan, Italy shooting on a rally; King of Italy Umberto I will be killed two years after to revenge this shooting.
- June 1 - The Trans-Mississippi Exposition world's fair opens in Omaha, Nebraska.
- June 12 - General Emilio Aguinaldo declares the Philippines' independence from Spain.
- June 13 - Yukon Territory is formed, with Dawson chosen as its capital.
- June 17 - The Navy Hospital Corps is established.
- July 7 - The United States annexes the Hawaiian Islands.
- July 17 - Spanish-American War: Battle of Santiago Bay - Troops under United States General William R. Shafter take the city of Santiago de Cuba from the Spanish.
- July 25 - Spanish-American War: The United States invasion of Puerto Rico begins with a landing at Guánica Bay.
- September 2 - Battle of Omdurman - British and Egyptian troops led by Horatio Kitchener defeat Sudanese tribesmen led by Khalifa Abdullah al-Taashi, thus establishing British dominance in the Sudan.
- September 10 ? Luigi Lucchesi assassinates Empress Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary
- December 10 - The Treaty of Peace ending the Spanish-American War is signed in Paris.
- December 26 ? Marie and Pierre Curie discover radium
- January 7 - Rudolf Fernau, actor (d. 1985)
- January 16 - Margaret Booth, film editor (d. 2002)
- January 21 - Ahmad Shah Qajar, last Persian Shah of the Qajar dynasty (d. 1930)
- January 23 - Sergei Eisenstein, director (d. 1948)
- February 3 - Alvar Aalto, Finnish architect (d. 1976)
- February 10 - Bertolt Brecht - playwright, writer and poet (d. 1956)
- February 14 - Fritz Zwicky, physicist and astronomer (d. 1974)
- February 14 - George Steed, businessman, philanthropist (d. 1988)
- February 15 - Allen Woodring, American sprinter (d. 1982)
- February 18 - Luis Muñoz Marín, Puerto Rican poet, journalist and politician (d. 1980)
- February 18 - Enzo Ferrari, auto racer, manufacturer (d. 1988)
- February 24 - Kurt Tank, aeronautical engineer (d. 1983)
- March 6 - Therese Giehse, actress (d. 1975)
- March 11 - Dorothy Gish, actress (d. 1968)
- April 3 - George Jessel, comedian (d. 1981)
- April 6 - Jeanne Hébuterne, painter, partner of Modigliani (d. 1920)
- May 3 - Golda Meir - Israeli Prime Minister (d. 1978)
- May 15 - Arletty, model, actress (d. 1992)
- May 17 - Alfred Joseph Casson painter (d. 1992)
- May 21 - Armand Hammer, entrepreneur, art collector (d. 1990)
- May 23 - Scott O'Dell, author (d. 1989)
- May 31 - Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (clergyman) (d. 1993)
- June 4 - Harry Crosby, publisher, poet (d. 1929)
- July 6 - Hanns Eisler, composer (d. 1962)
- June 17 - M. C. Escher, Dutch graphic artist
- July 2 - Gen Paul, French artist (d. 1975)
- July 22 - Erich Maria Remarque, a German writer (d. 1970)
- July 30 - Henry Moore - sculptor (d. 1986)
- August 26 - Peggy Guggenheim, art collector (d. 1979)
- August 29 - Preston Sturges, director and writer (d. 1959)
- September 22 - Katherine Alexander, actress (d. 1981)
- September 26 - George Gershwin, composer (d. 1937)
- September 30 - Renee Adoree, french actress
- September 30 - Princess Charlotte of Monaco
- October 10 - Lilly Daché, milliner (d. 1989)
- October 15 - Boughera El Ouafi, Algerian athlete
- November 8 - Marie Prevost, actress (d. 1937)
- November 18 - Joris Ivens, director
- November 21 - René Magritte, surrealist artist
- November 29 - C. S. Lewis, British author
- December 20 - Irene Dunne, American actress (d. 1990)
- December 24 - Baby Dodds, jazz musician (d. 1959)
- Hisamuddin Alam Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah, later Sultan of Selangor and 2nd Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia.
- January 14 - Lewis Carroll, British writer, mathematician
- January 18 - Henry George Lidell, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.
- March 1 - George Bruce Malleson, Indian officer and author (b. 1825)
- March 15 - Henry Bessemer, British Engineer inventor of the Bessemer process for the manufacture of steel.
- March 16 - Aubrey Beardsley, British artist
- April 15 - Kepa Te Rangihiwinui, Maori military leader
- May 19 - William Ewart Gladstone, British prime minister
- July 30 - Otto von Bismarck - German Statesman
- October 24 - Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, painter