ATRIAL FIBRILLATION (AF) is the most common sustained dysrhythmia in adults. It is ironic, then, that although mechanisms and effective treatments for most other supraventricular tachyarrhythmias have been discovered, AF remains incompletely understood and poorly treated. Nonetheless, our understanding of the pathophysiology of AF has improved in the last half-century, including some groundbreaking observations made in the last 10 years. Indeed, for some patients, the potential for cure now appears to be available. Because no unifying mechanism of AF has been proven, the aim of this review is to describe some of the common and important concepts behind current mechanistic theories of AF and how they contribute to our clinical understanding of AF.