I am looking for a particular word in English language. What do you call a paper which acknowledges something?

For example, at university when you ask for a list of passed exams (be it a analog or digital), you get a signed document. What is the name of such type of document?

I found the word “approbation” but I am uncertain about validity for this case.

  • 2
    Approbation certainly isn't what you want. There's probably no one word that covers all uses for what I think you're asking (your question is possibly too broad without going into more detail). Certificate could work for exams, so start by looking for synonyms of that.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 10:32
  • Ah, alright, at least I now know approbation is not the right now. The “certificate” seems too specific for actually passing some exam - you need to give some answers which are being evaluated and you are are given certificate, optionally, based on that. Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 11:47
  • 3
    No single word except maybe document,, but certificate of attendance and certificate of course completion.are often used for this purpose.
    – Davo
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 11:55
  • 2
    I think you are looking for transcript - an official record of a student's work, showing courses taken and grades achieved.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 13:10

1 Answer 1



Dutch actually has a word for this: "attest". It's somewhat like a certificate, but broader. As a native Dutch speaker, I've seen it used for any document that bears any form of proof. Whether it's a certificate (for finishing a course/class/curriculum), an authentication (e.g. a proof of no criminal record), official documentation (e.g. your car's registration), a doctor's note or a permission slip; "attest" applies to all of them.

The Dutch dictionary describes "attest" as:

A written declaration that serves as evidence.

Which is what you're after. Sadly, I can't think of any direct synonym in English that covers all use cases.

However, the verb "to attest" comes pretty close in meaning:

To attest

  • Provide or serve as clear evidence of.
    • Declare that something exists or is the case.
    • Witness or certify formally.

And this meaning seems to be preserved in the noun attestation:

  1. A thing that serves to bear witness, confirm or authenticate.
  2. A confirmation or authentication.

Althought an attestation is not necessarily a physical document, I see a reasonable argument for considering such an implication to be acceptable. The first definition specifically refers to a thing, which puts it in a stark contrast to e.g. a verbal testimony.


I came across some other nouns that are close in meaning, but most of them only cover part of your (broader) definition.

  • Authentication => Only applies to documents that verify the validity of a source, which is not always relevant in your case.
  • Affidavit => Only applies in a legal context, which is too restrictive.
  • Declaration => Only applies if it's a document that bears someone's testimony, not when the document is listing observable facts.
  • Verification => Broader than an authentication, and I nearly wanted to suggest this as the correct answer. However, its listed definitions all refer to the act of verifying (other sources also include the state of being verified), rather than a document.
  • Confirmation => Too broad. I see no way to imply that it's a physcial document without making it sound stilted (e.g. "confirmation document").

All these words are partially correct. None of them fully cover the broad definition that you are after, but I do expect that a significant amount of use cases for your broader definition can be accurately described by using one of these nouns.


Looking further into it, it seems that the definition of verification (in reference to a document) is dependent on which source you follow.

Dictionary.com does actually list the definition we're after:

  1. evidence that establishes or confirms the accuracy or truth of something
    We could find no verification for his fantastic claims.

But Wiktionary, the OLD and Merriam-Webster do not list a similar definition.

From what I understand, not everyone on English.SE considers Dictionary.com an authoritative source, so whether or not you consider verification to be correct is up to you.

  • Wow, this is very thorough breakdown of suggestions! Thanks a lot! Looking thought the list, the attestation seems to be well fitting, then certificate. I cannot exclude the simple transcript, suggested by Phil in a comment section. Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 17:48
  • 'Verification' as defined even by Wiktionary seems an abstract rather than a concrete usage. Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 22:28

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