A router is an electronic device that interconnects two or more computer networks, and selectively interchanges packets of data between them. Each data packet contains address information that a router can use to determine if the source and destination are on the same network, or if the data packet must be transferred from one network to another. When multiple routers are used in a large collection of interconnected networks, the routers exchange information about target system addresses, so that each router can build up a table showing the preferred paths between any two systems on the interconnected networks.
A router is a networking device whose software and hardware are customized to the tasks of routing and forwarding information. A router has two or more network interfaces, which may be to different physical types of network (such as copper cables, fiber, or wireless) or different network standards. Each network interface is a specialized device that converts electric signals from one form to another.
Routers connect two or more logical subnets, each having a different network address. The subnets in the router do not necessarily map one-to-one to the physical interfaces of the router. The term "layer 3 switching" is often used interchangeably with the term "routing". The term switching is generally used to refer to data forwarding between two network devices with the same network address. This is also called layer 2 switching or LAN switching.
Conceptually, a router operates in two operational planes (or sub-systems):
Control plane: where a router builds a table (called routing table) as how a packet should be forwarded through which interface, by using either statically configured statements (called static routes) or by exchanging information with other routers in the network through a dynamical routing protocol;
Forwarding plane: where the router actually forwards traffic (called packets in IP) from ingress (incoming) interfaces to an egress (outgoing) interface that is appropriate for the destination address that the packet carries with it, by following rules derived from the routing table that has been built in the control plane.
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