Next-generation wireless networks (NGWN) have a substantial potential in terms of supporting a broad range of complex compelling applications both in military and civilian fields, where the users are able to enjoy high-rate, low-latency, low-cost and reliable information services. Achieving this ambitious goal requires new radio techniques for adaptive learning and intelligent decision making because of the complex heterogeneous nature of the network structures and wireless services. Machine learning algorithms have great success in supporting big data analytics, efficient parameter estimation and interactive decision making. Hence, in this article, we review the thirty-year history of machine learning by elaborating on supervised learning, unsupervised learning, reinforcement learning and deep learning, respectively. Furthermore, we investigate their employment in the compelling applications of NGWNs, including heterogeneous networks (HetNets), cognitive radios (CR), Internet of things (IoT), machine to machine networks (M2M), and so on. This article aims for assisting the readers in clarifying the motivation and methodology of the various machine learning algorithms, so as to invoke them for hitherto unexplored services as well as scenarios of future wireless networks.