Dating is a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by two people with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. While the term has several meanings, it usually refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public, together, as a couple.
The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country. The most common idea is two people trying out a relationship and exploring whether they're compatible by going out together in public as a couple, who may or may not yet be having sexual relations. This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement or marriage.
From the perspective of the history of humans in civilization, dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries. From the standpoint of anthropology and sociology, dating is linked with other institutions such as marriage and the family which have also been changing rapidly and which have been subject to many forces, including advances in technology and medicine. As humans have evolved from the hunter-gatherers into civilized societies and more recently into modern societies, there have been substantial changes in the relationship between men and women, with perhaps the only biological constant being that both adult women and men must have sexual intercourse for human procreation to happen.