The term "ground" refers to a conductive body, usually the earth. "Grounding" a tool or electrical system means intentionally creating a low-resistance path to the earth. When properly done, current from a short or from lightning follows this path, thus preventing the buildup of voltages that would otherwise result in electrical shock, injury and even death.
There is one disadvantage to grounding: a break in the grounding system may occur without the user's knowledge. Using a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is one way of overcoming grounding deficiencies.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor Office of Safety & Health Administration