Although a high level of lactate is quintessential to both tumors and wound healing, the manner by which lactate impacts endothelial cells to promote angiogenesis and thereby create or restore vascular perfusion to growing tissues has not been fully elucidated. Here we report that lactate activated the PI3K/Akt pathway in primary human endothelial cells. Furthermore, activating this signaling pathway was required for lactate-stimulated organization of endothelial cells into tubes and for sprouting of vessels from mouse aortic explants. Lactate engaged the PI3K/Akt pathway via ligand-mediated activation of the three receptor tyrosine kinases Axl, Tie2, and VEGF receptor 2. Neutralizing the ligands for these receptor tyrosine kinases, pharmacologically inhibiting their kinase activity or suppressing their expression largely eliminated the ability of cells and explants to respond to lactate. Elucidating the mechanism by which lactate communicates with endothelial cells presents a previously unappreciated opportunity to improve our understanding of the angiogenic program and to govern it.