Reactive ion etching of PbZrxTi1-xO3 (PZT) thin films was studied by using Cl2/C2F6/Ar gas chemistry in an inductively coupled plasma (ICP). PZT films were deposited on Pt/Ti/SiO2/Si substrates by the sol–gel process. PZT films were etched by varying the etching parameters including coil rf power, dc-bias voltage to the substrate, and gas pressure. Etching characteristics of PZT films were investigated in terms of etch rate, etch selectivity, etch profile and etching mechanism. Etch profile along with etch anisotropy was observed as a function of etching parameter by field emission scanning electron microscopy. For understanding of the etching mechanism, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and ICP analysis for film composition were utilized. Finally, the pattern transfer of PZT films with fine geometry was successfully achieved at the optimum etching condition.© 1998 American Vacuum Society.