Biomedical scientists use chemistry-driven processes found in nature as an inspiration to design biomaterials as promising diagnostic tools, therapeutic solutions, or tissue substitutes. While substantial consideration is devoted to the design and validation of biomaterials, the nature of their interactions with the surrounding biological microenvironment is commonly neglected. This gap of knowledge could be owing to our poor understanding of biochemical signaling pathways, lack of reliable techniques for designing biomaterials with optimal physicochemical properties, and/or poor stability of biomaterial properties after implantation. The success of host responses to biomaterials, known as biocompatibility, depends on chemical principles as the root of both cell signaling pathways in the body and how the biomaterial surface is designed. Most of the current review papers have discussed chemical engineering and biological principles of designing biomaterials as separate topics, which has resulted in neglecting the main role of chemistry in this field. In this review, we discuss biocompatibility in the context of chemistry, what it is and how to assess it, while describing contributions from both biochemical cues and biomaterials as well as the means of harmonizing them. We address both biochemical signal-transduction pathways and engineering principles of designing a biomaterial with an emphasis on its surface physicochemistry. As we aim to show the role of chemistry in the crosstalk between the surface physicochemical properties and body responses, we concisely highlight the main biochemical signal-transduction pathways involved in the biocompatibility complex. Finally, we discuss the progress and challenges associated with the current strategies used for improving the chemical and physical interactions between cells and biomaterial surface.