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Fidelity is the quality of being faithful or loyal. Its original meaning regarded duty in a broader sense than the related concept of fealty. Both derive from the Latin word fidēlis, meaning "faithful or loyal". In the City of London financial markets it has traditionally been used in the sense encompassed in the motto "My word is my bond".
Fidelity also denotes how accurately a copy reproduces its source. For example, a worn gramophone record will have a lower fidelity than one in good condition, and a recording made by a low budget record company in the early 20th century is likely to have significantly less audio fidelity than a good modern recording. In the 1950s, the terms "high fidelity" or "hi-fi" were popularized for equipment and recordings which exhibited more accurate sound reproduction. The converse term "lo-fi", does not necessarily mean "low fidelity", rather that the production ethic aims for "gritty authenticity" over perfect production. Similarly in electronics, fidelity refers to the correspondence of the output signal to the input signal, rather than sound quality, as in the popular internet connection technology "Wi-Fi".
In the fields of scientific modelling and simulation, fidelity refers to the degree to which a model or simulation reproduces the state and behaviour of a real world object, feature or condition. Fidelity is therefore a measure of the realism of a model or simulation. Simulation fidelity has also been described in the past as "degree of similarity".
In the field of program evaluation, the term fidelity denotes how closely a set of procedures were implemented as they were supposed to have been. For example, it is difficult to draw conclusions from a study about formative assessment in school classrooms if the teachers are not able or willing to follow the procedures they received in training.