Fado (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈfaðu]; "destiny, fate") is a music genre that can be traced to the 1820s in Lisbon, Portugal, but probably has much earlier origins. Fado historian and scholar Rui Vieira Nery states that "the only reliable information on the history of Fado was orally transmitted and goes back to the 1820s and 1830s at best. But even that information was frequently modified within the generational transmission process that made it reach us today."
Although the origins are difficult to trace, today fado is commonly regarded as simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain traditional structure. In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. This is loosely captured by the Portuguese word saudade, or "longing", symbolizing a feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent lifelong damage). This is similar to the character of several musical genres in Portuguese ex-colonies such as morna from Cape Verde, which may be historically linked to fado in its earlier form but has retained its rhythmic heritage. This connection to the music of a historic Portuguese urban and maritime proletariat (sailors, dock workers, port traders and other working-class people in general) can also be found in Brazilian modinha and Indonesian kroncong, although all these music genres subsequently developed their own independent traditions.
The word "fado" possibly comes from the Latin word fatum. The word is linked to the music genre itself, although both meanings are approximately the same in the two languages. Nevertheless, many songs play on the double meaning, such as the Amália Rodrigues song "Com que voz", which includes the lyric "Com que voz chorarei meu triste fado" ("With what voice should I lament my sad fate/sing my sad fado?").
The English-Latin term vates, the Scandinavian fata ("to compose music") and the French name fatiste (also meaning "poet") have been associated with the term fadista.