Weak noise acting upon a nonlinear dynamical system can have far-reaching consequences. The fundamental underlying problem - that of large deviations of a nonlinear system away from a stable or metastable state, sometimes resulting in a transition to a new stationary state, in response to weak additive or multiplicative noise - has long attracted the attention of physicists. This is partly because of its wide applicability, and partly because it bears on the origins of temporal irreversibility in physical processes. During the last few years it has become apparent that, in a system far from thermal equilibrium, even small noise can also result in qualitative change in the system's properties, e.g., the transformation of an unstable equilibrium state into a stable one, and vice versa, the occurrence of multistability and multimodality, the appearance of a mean field, the excitation of noise-induced oscillations, and noise-induced transport (stochastic ratchets). A representative selection of such phenomena is discussed and analyzed, and recent progress made towards their understanding is reviewed.