A document type declaration, or DOCTYPE, is an instruction that associates a particular SGML or XML document (for example, a webpage) with a document type definition (DTD) (for example, the formal definition of a particular version of HTML).
The content of the document……
Definition and Usage
The declaration must be the very first thing in your HTML document, before the tag.
The declaration is not an HTML tag; it is an instruction to the web browser about what version of HTML the page is written in.
In HTML 4.01, the declaration refers to a DTD, because HTML 4.01 was based on SGML. The DTD specifies the rules for the markup language, so that the browsers render the content correctly.
HTML5 is not based on SGML, and therefore does not require a reference to a DTD.
Tip: Always add the declaration to your HTML documents, so that the browser knows what type of document to expect.