The terms dominant and recessive describe the inheritance patterns of certain traits. That is, they describe how likely it is for a certain phenotype to pass from parent offspring.
Sexually reproducing species, including people and other animals, have two copies of each gene. The two copies, called alleles, can be slightly different from each other. The differences can cause variations in the protein that’s produced, or they can change protein expression: when, where, and how much protein is made. Proteins affect traits, so variations in protein activity or expression can produce different phenotypes.
A dominant allele produces a dominant phenotype in individuals who have one copy of the allele, which can come from just one parent. For a recessive allele to produce a recessive phenotype, the individual must have two copies, one from each parent. An individual with one dominant and one recessive allele for a gene will have the dominant phenotype. They are generally considered “carriers” of the recessive allele: the recessive allele is there, but the recessive phenotype is not.