From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- The act of paying court, with the intent to solicit a favor.
- The act of wooing in love; solicitation of woman to marriage.
- Courtliness; elegance of manners; courtesy.
- Court policy; the character of a courtier; artifice of a court; court-craft; finesse.
Courtship is the period in a couple's relationship which precedes their engagement and marriage, or establishment of an agreed relationship of a more enduring kind. In courtship, a couple get to know each other and decide if there will be an engagement or other such agreement. A courtship may be an informal and private matter between two people or may be a public affair, or a formal arrangement with family approval. Traditionally, in the case of a formal engagement, it has been perceived that it is the role of a male to actively "court" or "woo" a female, thus encouraging her to understand him and her receptiveness to a proposal of marriage. Within many western societies, these distinct gender roles have lost some of their importance and rigidity. It is now common in younger generations for females to both initiate relationships and to propose marriage.
Courtship in animals
Many non-human animal species have mate-selection rituals also referred to as "courtship", anthropomorphically. Animal courtship may involve complicated dances or touching, vocalizations, or displays of beauty or fighting prowess. Most animal courtship occurs out of sight of humans, so it is often the least documented of animal behaviors. One animal whose courtship rituals are well studied is the bower bird, whose male builds a "bower" of collected objects.
From the scientific point of view, courtship in the animal kingdom is the process in which the different species select their partners for reproduction purposes. Generally speaking, the male initiates the courtship and the female chooses to either mate or reject the male based on his "performance".
One sociobiological model is The Selfish Gene, proposed by Richard Dawkins: That an individual of a species will mate with individuals from the same species displaying "good genes". Courtship, then, is a display of "genes" carried by an organism looking forward to mix with the genes of another organism to preserve themselves and their genes onto the next generation.
Specific terms from various cultures