Dating is a stage of romantic relationships in which two individuals engage in an activity together, most often with the intention of evaluating each other’s suitability as a partner in a future intimate relationship. It falls into the category of courtship, consisting of social events carried out by the couple either alone or with others. The protocols and practices of dating and the terms used to describe it vary vastly between cultures, societies, and time periods. Although dating is most often colloquially used to refer to the action of individuals engaging in dates with one other, dating can also encompass a wide range of activities which fall outside participation in social events.
The meaning of dating also shifted during the 20th century to include a more informal use referring to a romantic relationship itself beyond an introductory or trial stage. Although informal, this meaning is very common and is used in formal speech as well as writing. Although taboo across most of the world for much of history, premarital sex has become increasingly common within the last century, beginning with the onset of the sexual revoltion. Across a greater number of portrayals in film, television, and music, sex within dating has become increasingly accepted as a natural progression of the relationship.