Genomic analysis has recently identified multiple ESR1 gene translocations in estrogen receptor alpha–positive (ERαþ) metastatic breast cancer (MBC) that encode chimeric proteins whereby the ESR1 ligand binding domain (LBD) is replaced by C-terminal sequences from many different gene partners. Here we functionally screened 15 ESR1 fusions and identified 10 that promoted estradiol-independent cell growth, motility, invasion, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and resistance to fulvestrant. RNA sequencing identified a gene expression pattern specific to functionally active ESR1 gene fusions that was subsequently reduced to a diagnostic 24-gene signature. This signature was further examined in 20 ERαþ patient-derived xenografts and in 55 ERαþ MBC samples. The 24-gene signature successfully identified cases harboring ESR1 gene fusions and also accurately diagnosed the presence of activating ESR1 LBD point mutations. Therefore, the 24-gene signature represents an efficient approach to screening samples for the presence of diverse somatic ESR1 mutations and translocations that drive endocrine treatment failure in MBC.