Tempo means time in Italian. The expression found
at the top left corner of the musical staff indicates how fast the music should be played.
The expression could be a word or a metronome marking.
adagio: very slow. allegretto: fairly quick, slightly slower than allegro. allegro: lively, rather quick. andante: rather slow, at a moderate, walking pace. andantino: this used to mean a little slower than andante, but now it usually means a little faster than andante. con moto: with movement, or a certain quickness. grave: extremely slow and solemn. largamente: broadly. larghetto: less slow than largo. largo: slow and broad. lentamente: slowly. lento: slow. moderato: moderate pace. prestissimo: as quick as possible. presto: very quick. rapido: rapid. veloce: with velocity. vivace: quick and lively.
belebt: animated. breit: broad. breiter: broader. geschwinder: more rapid, swift. grossem: large, big. klagend: lamenting. langsam: slow. langsamer: slower. mässig: moderate. rasch: quick. schnell: fast. schneller: faster
animé: animated. grande: large, great. grave: slow, solemn, deep slow. gravement: gravely, solemnly. lent: slow. vif.: lively. vite: fast.HISTORY
Tempo markings had been used since the early Baroque period, particularly with instrumental music. Not all instrumental music at that time had a tempo mark. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) often left out tempo marks in his keyboard music which was left to the discretion of the performer. The time of a piece was often determined by its purpose. Dance music was played at a certain tempo, depending on its style, so as to be danceable. Likewise, choral music had a certain tempo reflecting the mood of the text. Tempo markings became necessary to the point that Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) provided metronome markings instead of descriptive words.