Doppler assessment of diastolic function has become a standard part of routine echocardiographic examination and imparts information relevant to a patient's functional class, management and prognosis. This review describes the Doppler patterns of diastolic function relative to physical signs and physiology. A continuum of doppler patterns of diastolic function exists, including normal diastolic function, impaired relaxation, pseudonormal filling, restriction, constriction and tamponade. These patterns evolve from one to another in a single individual, with changes in disease evolution, treatment and loading conditions. New applications of continuous wave Doppler, color Doppler M-mode and Doppler tissue imaging are refining our understanding of diastolic function.