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The Windows desktop is the starting point for Windows.  It is the screen which comes up when the computer is completely booted.  This is what the Windows desktop looks like.

Windows desktop

There are several components to the desktop, which are covered in other sections.  In the image above the "desktop" is the area of the screen with the picture of the meadow and sky.  The Recycle Bin, My Computer and My Documents are on top of that picture, so they are said to be "on" the desktop.  Microsoft likens it to a desk where you do work.  They compare it to the surface of the desk where you keep things you might want to work on.

The portion of the screen from the image above which is considered to be the desktop is shown in the image below.


You can see here that there is nothing but the picture from the original image.  This entire section and nothing else is the Windows desktop.