Journal – definition and meaning

A journal can mean a specialized magazine or newspaper or a daily record of news and events, i.e., a diary. It can also mean a record that accountants keep of current transactions in double-entry bookkeeping. A legislative or deliberative body may have a journal, which is a record of their transactions.

In mechanical engineering, the term refers to the part of a rotating shaft, spindle, axle, or roll that turns in a bearing.

This article focuses on the meaning of the term in business situations.

According to Oxford Living Dictionaries, the term refers to:

“1. A newspaper or magazine that deals with a particular subject or professional activity. 2. A daily record of news and events of a personal nature; a diary. 3. A (nautical) logbook.”

“4. (UK) A record of the daily proceedings in the Houses of Parliament. 5. A daily record (in bookkeeping) of business transactions with a statement of the accounts to which each is to be debited and credited.”

Journal - definitions and four examples
As this image shows, the word ‘journal’ has several different meanings.

Accounting journal

An accounting journal is a place in which we record the details of all of a business’ financial transactions.

Thanks to the journal, we know which of the company’s accounts each transaction affects.

In accounting, the term refers to a financial record we keep in the form of accounting software, a spreadsheet, or a book.

We also call it a ‘book of first entry.’ It contains every financial transaction that a business performs.

The Balance makes the following comment regarding the term:

“You’ll need an accounting journal for day-to-day operations, for budgeting, and—of course—for tax purposes as soon as you open your doors to clients or customers and begin engaging in commerce.”

Accounting journals can prevent companies from underspending in some areas while overspending in others.

More importantly, they can help us detect any irregularities before they become a serious problem.

Many white-collar crimes were detected because somebody spotted something irregular in the journal. White-collar refers to non-manual work, i.e., office work.

Academic journals

Academic or journals are periodical publications which specialize in particular academic disciplines.

For example, there are medical, veterinary, geological, and astronomical journals. There are also some that focus on macroeconomics, finance, or banking. In fact, they exist in all the disciplines.

The most prestigious ones are peer-reviewed. In other words, specialized professionals evaluate the articles.

Etymology of journal

Etymology is the study of the origin of words, and also how their meanings evolved. Etymologists are people who specialize in the origin of words.

In mid-14th century Britain, the term ‘journal’ meant a book of church services. It came from the Anglo-French word ‘Jurnal, which came from Old French ‘Jornel.’

The old French word, which meant “that which takes place daily,” came from Late Latin ‘Duirnalis’, which meant ‘Daily.’

Video – What is a journal?

This Snazzavery video explains what a journal is when it means somewhere we write our experiences and thoughts.