Legal Dating Status
Over time, courts have come up with a legal definition of what dating is. US Legal Definitions defines dating as "frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectional involvement. This term does not include a casual relationship or an ordinary fraternization between two individuals in a business or social context." Most state courts have similar definitions. This implies any relationship outside of a friendship or a business relationships where people see each other frequently and are affectionate.
The "Merriam-Webster" dictionary describes a date as "an appointment to meet at a specified time; especially: a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character." Many people have dates every day, whether they are lunch dates or coffee dates, so the important part of this definition is the "romantic character" of the date. The romantic character can consist of things like having dinner at a romantic restaurant (i.e., low lights, romantic music, etc.), going to a show or doing something the other person likes to do and showing a physical interest in the other person (i.e., by saying how good the person looks, holding his hand, etc.).
Friendships into Dating
People can run into the problem of having romantic feelings for their friends. When this starts to happen, people may find it difficult to distinguish activities where the two people are hanging out between what could potentially be seen as a date. In the book "Handbook of Relationship Initiation," Sprecher, Wenzel and Harvey state that people who try to move from being friends into a romantic dating relationship experience more turbulence than in pure dating relationships. This turbulence is caused by the insecurity that some people have about whether or not the other person feels the same way; also by the pressure that comes with changing the relationship from a friendship to a dating relationship. This can take a bit of work on the part of both parties.
A reason that defining a dating relationship is difficult is that people tend to have different ways of describing it. Not everyone uses the term "dating" to describe the behavior between two people. Some people call it "going out," "seeing each other" and other terms like that. These terms change over both time and geography; so there is no universal way that people refer to dating. The terms a person uses to refer to the involvement affects the way she and the other person interpret the relationship. For example, "going out" to one person may entail only dating one specific person, whereas "going out" could mean a casual, nonexclusive relationship to another person.
Types of Dates
The types of dates people go on have changed over time, like the terminology. Dating has gone from boys picking up girls at their houses and taking them out to just hanging out at a person's house. This is important to keep in mind when assessing if people are dating or not. While hanging out at a house may not seem like a date, it can definitely be one. The interaction between the two people is the important thing to focus on.