What does "Kernel Version" refer to in terms of the system software?

The "Kernel Version" appears in ---- About this Mac > More Info > System Software Overview

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  • Darwin is an open source operating system released by Apple in 2000.
    Apple then built upon Darwin to create OS X and iOS.

    In turn, Darwin is built around the XNU operating system kernel. For Apple, the kernel manages memory, multi-processor functions, etc. Apple acquired XNU from Next (XNU was part of the NeXTSTEP Operating System) in order to develop the OS X operating system.

    Kernel Versions:
    Darwin version 10 was the version of the XNU kernel that Snow Leopard (OS 10.6) was built upon. It came in two varieties: 32-bit and 64-bit. The 64-bit version allowed for management of more than 32GB of RAM.

    Darwin version 12.5.0 is used by OS 10.8.5

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