The extracellular matrix (ECM) provides structural support and imparts a wide variety of environ-mental cues to cells. In the past decade, a growing body of work revealed that the mechanical properties of the ECM, commonly known as matrix stiffness, regulate the fundamental cellular processes of the lung. There is growing appreciation that mechanical interplays between cells and associated ECM are essential to maintain lung homeostasis. Dysregulation of ECM-derived mechanical signaling via altered mechanosensing and mechanotransduction pathways is associated with many common lung diseases. Matrix stiffening is a hallmark of lung fibrosis. The stiffened ECM is not merely a sequelae of lung fibrosis but can actively drive the progression of fibrotic lung disease. In this article, we provide a comprehensive view on the role of matrix stiffness in lung health and disease. We begin by summarizing the effects of matrix stiffness on the function and behavior of various lung cell types and on regulation of biomolecule activity and key physiological processes, including host immune response and cellular metabolism. We discuss the potential mechanisms by which cells probe matrix stiffness and convert mechanical signals to regulate gene expression. We highlight the factors that govern matrix stiffness and outline the role of matrix stiffness in lung development and the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hyper-tension, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. We envision targeting of deleterious matrix mechanical cues for treatment of fibrotic lung disease. Advances in technologies for matrix stiffness measurements and design of stiffness-tunable matrix substrates are also explored. © 2022 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 12:3523-3558, 2022.