DNS is short for Domain Name Service, an Internet service that translates domain names into IP addresses, and vice versa. Because domain names are alphabetic, they're easier to remember. The Internet however, is really based on IP addresses. Every time you use a domain name, therefore, a DNS service must translate the name into the corresponding IP address. For example, the domain name www.example.com might translate to 126.96.36.199.
The DNS system is, in fact, its own network. If one DNS server doesn't know how to translate a particular domain name, or IP address, it asks another one, and so on, until the correct IP address or domain name is returned.