Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as date or date palm, is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from the Fertile Crescent region straddling between Egypt and Mesopotamia. The species is widely cultivated across Northern Africa, Middle East and South Asia, and is naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.P. dactylifera is the type species of genus Phoenix, which contains 12–19 species of wild date palms, and is the major source of commercial production.
Date trees typically reach about 21–23 metres (69–75 ft) in height, growing singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system. Date fruits (dates) are oval-cylindrical, 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) long, and about an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, ranging from bright red to bright yellow in color, depending on variety. They are very sweet, containing about 75 percent of sugar when dried.
Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in Arabia from the 6th millennium BCE. The total annual world production of dates amounts to 8.5 million metric tons, countries of the Middle East and North Africa being the largest producers.
The species name dactylifera "date-bearing" comes from the Greek words daktylos (δάκτυλος), which means "date" (also "finger"), and fero (φέρω), which means "I bear". The fruit is known as a date. The fruit's English name (through Old French), as well as the Latin both come from the Greek word for "finger", dáktulos, because of the fruit's elongated shape.