In electronics, a hardware description language or HDL is any language from a class of computer languages and/or programming languages for formal description of digital logic and electronic circuits. It can describe the circuit's operation, its design and organization, and tests to verify its operation by means of simulation.
HDLs are standard text-based expressions of the spatial and temporal structure and behaviour of electronic systems. In contrast to a software programming language, HDL syntax and semantics include explicit notations for expressing time and concurrency, which are the primary attributes of hardware. Languages whose only characteristic is to express circuit connectivity between hierarchies of blocks are properly classified as netlist languages used on electric computer-aided design (CAD).
HDLs are used to write executable specifications of some piece of hardware. A simulation program, designed to implement the underlying semantics of the language statements, coupled with simulating the progress of time, provides the hardware designer with the ability to model a piece of hardware before it is created physically. It is this executability that gives HDLs the illusion of being programming languages. Simulators capable of supporting discrete-event (digital) and continuous-time (analog) modeling exist, and HDLs targeted for each are available.