It's one of those words with which most people are familiar, but have vastly differing opinions of what it means. It summons visions of men women with small tokens of affection and asking their hand in marriage on bended knee.
For social scientists, studies of courtship usually look at the process of "mate selection." (Social scientists, among whom I number myself from time to time, will never be accused of being romantics.) For the purpose of this article the , prior to the early 20th century, courtship involved one man and one woman spending intentional time together to get to know each other with the expressed purpose of evaluating the other as a potential husband or wife.
The man and the woman usually were members of the same community, and the courting usually was done in the woman's home in the presence (and under the watchful eye) of her family, most often Mom and brothers.
However, between the late 1800s and the first few decades of the 1900s the new system of "dating" added new stages to courtship.
The world of dating in America has changed dramatically over the last century.
Some may argue that in today's society, it is nonexistent and has been replaced by what many young people refer to as "hooking up." With the advent of new technologies (e.g., cell phones, instant messaging, video chatting, etc.) and the changing definitions of traditional dating and families, "dating" has become a more open and self-interpreted institution over the century.
Frequently the tribe from which a warrior stole a bride would come looking for her, and it was necessary for the warrior and his new wife to go into hiding to avoid being discovered.
This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement or marriage.
During the Victorian Era (1837-1901), romantic love became viewed as the primary requirement for marriage and courting became even more formal - almost an art form among the upper classes.
An interested gentleman could not simply walk up to a young lady and begin a conversation.
Since lower-class families did not have the resources to entertain potential suitors in their home, many couples began leaving the house to spend time together.
Thus, the phrase "going out on a date" became popularized.
Dating is a stage of romantic or sexual relationships in humans whereby two or more people meet socially, possibly as friends or with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a prospective partner in a more committed intimate relationship or marriage.