The term 'cardiorenal syndrome' (CRS) has increasingly been used in recent years without a constant meaning and a well-accepted definition. To include the vast array of interrelated derangements, and to stress the bidirectional nature of the heart-kidney interactions, the classification of the CRS today includes 5 subtypes whose etymology reflects the primary and secondary pathology, the time frame and simultaneous cardiac and renal codysfunction secondary to systemic disease. The CRS can generally be defined as a pathophysiological disorder of the heart and kidneys whereby acute or chronic dysfunction in one organ may induce acute or chronic dysfunction in the other organ. Type I CRS reflects an abrupt worsening of cardiac function (e.g. acute cardiogenic shock or decompensated congestive heart failure) leading to acute kidney injury. Type II CRS describes chronic abnormalities in cardiac function (e.g. chronic congestive heart failure) causing progressive and permanent chronic kidney disease. Type III CRS consists in an abrupt worsening of renal function (e.g. acute kidney ischemia or glomerulonephritis) causing acute cardiac disorder (e.g. heart failure, arrhythmia, ischemia). Type IV CRS describes a state of chronic kidney disease (e.g. chronic glomerular disease) contributing to decreased cardiac function, cardiac hypertrophy and/or increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events. Type V CRS reflects a systemic condition (e.g. diabetes mellitus, sepsis) causing both cardiac and renal dysfunction. Biomarkers can help to characterize the subtypes of the CRS and to indicate treatment initiation and effectiveness. The identification of patients and the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying each syndrome subtype will help to understand clinical derangements, to make the rationale for management strategies and to design future clinical trials with accurate selection and stratification of the studied population.