Determination of metabolomic signatures of pulmonary function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the general population could aid in identification and understanding of early disease processes. Metabolome measurements were performed on serum from 4742 individuals (2354 African-Americans and 1529 European-Americans from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study and 859 Europeans from the Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg study). We examined 368 metabolites in relation to cross-sectional measures of forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), their ratio (FEV1/FVC) and COPD using multivariable regression followed by meta-analysis. At a false discovery rate of 0.05, 95 metabolites were associated with FEV1 and 100 with FVC (73 overlapping), including inverse associations with branched-chain amino acids and positive associations with glutamine. Ten metabolites were associated with FEV1/FVC and seventeen with COPD (393 cases). Enriched pathways of amino acid metabolism were identified. Associations with FEV1 and FVC were not driven by individuals with COPD. We identified novel metabolic signatures of pulmonary function and COPD in African and European ancestry populations. These may allow development of biomarkers in the general population of early disease pathogenesis, before pulmonary function has decreased to levels diagnostic for COPD.