We describe a large-cell lymphoma of activated lymphoid cells in six children and adolescents. The presenting clinical features of regressing skin lesions and peripheral lymphadenopathy, sinus infiltration of lymph nodes, and infrequent tumor cell erythrophagocytosis resulted in initial diagnoses of malignant or regressing atypical histiocytosis in five cases. Binucleate and multinucleate tumor cells, sometimes with prominent eosinophilic nucleoli, resembled Reed-Sternberg (RS) cells and occasionally were found in a cytoarchitectural milieu that was consistent with a diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease (HD). The tumor cells did in fact express the HD-associated antigen Ki-1, but unlike most types of HD, the RS-like cells expressed common leukocyte antigen and were negative for Leu-M1. A T cell origin for the malignant cells was demonstrated with monoclonal antibodies in two cases, by focal staining for nonspecific esterase in one case, and by rearrangement of the beta- chain genes for the T cell receptor in a fourth case. These studies provide further evidence that some cases previously interpreted as malignant or regressing atypical histiocytosis and some types of HD are actually T cell disorders.