Definition and background:
The bottom number represents the note value of the basic pulse of the music (in this case the 4 represents the quarter-note). The top number indicates how many of these note values appear in each measure. This example announces that each measure is the equivalent length of three crotchets (quarter-notes). It was referred to as a "perfect" time.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary