What's the difference between diary and journal? They seem like they could mean the same thing, but I'm probably wrong.

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    A diary is almost always written from a personal perspective. The word journal has other meanings, but one of its definitions is a synonym for diary. But this is basic dictionary stuff...
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 2:22
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    They're largely synonymous, though diary sometimes implies something more personal and/or private. Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 2:22
  • There are two major types of "journal". One is a chronological account of events, and the other is a technical "periodical" magazine (which is technically chronological by issue, but the chronology is usually much less important). Within the first (ie, chronological) category, "journal" may span the range from a personal diary to a formal bookkeeping document to a computer file used to keep a record of a computer's actions. "Diary" is almost always a personal record of events and thoughts in largely chronological order.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 1:59

4 Answers 4


Diary and Journal are synonyms, but there is an important difference:

A diary is strictly a record of personal and daily experiences. Journal could mean a more general record or logbook but more importantly a technical journal, that is a scientific or industry-related publication/periodical.


Summary: Diary and Journal have the same specific meaning, but journal can have other meanings also.

  • Could we call a journal a collection of events, learnings, and reflections on specific topics (The Lancet, for example, is a medical journal), and a diary is a specific kind of journal where the subject is yourself?
    – lonstar
    Commented Mar 14 at 13:30

I don't know where I heard this (and I even searched google for the source), but I hear people saying, "Girls keep diaries, boys keep journals." I think they both mean the same thing, but you normally wouldn't hear a boy say, "I'm going to write in my diary." They're more likely to say, "I keep a journal."

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    ...Reminds me of this cartoon
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 9:52
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    I remember reading this in the Henry Reed (children's) series by Keith Robertson. A diary is more of a day-to-day writing, a journal is more topical.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 2:05
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    @J.R. : "Access Denied"
    – TOOGAM
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 13:56
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    @TOOGAM – ‌@‌J.R.'s cartoon, archived here, is of a king sitting at a small desk on a rainy day, with a quill pen writing the words "Reigned all day".
    – Adam Katz
    Commented Jul 2, 2022 at 3:15

A diary is mainly used to write things you would like to remember - daily activities, how the day was spent, what was done, the daily routine and anything that needs to get done. A personal journal is a record of significant experiences. It is much more personal than a diary. It contains feelings, emotions, problems, and self-assurances and can be used to evaluate one’s life. For a journal, one does not just record one's experiences but also thoughts, feelings and reflections. Diary writing is a daily activity but one can write in a journal whenever there is a desire to write about significant experiences.

Someone asked for sources:

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 8th edition

jour•nal noun

1 a newspaper or magazine that deals with a particular subject or profession a scientific/trade journal e.g. the British Medical Journal

2 used in the title of some newspapers e.g. the Wall Street Journal

3 a written record of the things you do, see, etc. every day He kept a journal of his travels across Asia.

diary noun

1 a book with spaces for each day of the year in which you can write down things you have to do in the future e.g. a desk diary I'll make a note of our next meeting in my diary.

2 a book in which you can write down the experiences you have each day, your private thoughts, etc e.g. Do you keep a diary (= write one regularly) ? The writer's letters and diaries are being published next year.

© Oxford University Press, 2010

  • I would like to see some source of that, because a journal is often an official, publicly available, log of events, and as such much less likely to be personal. A diary on the other hand is what you describe as a journal. Think of Anne Frank's diary.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 8:21
  • To me, the source does not support your statement in the first paragraph, and almost contradicts it. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 18:51

I kept (summer) diaries and journals a teenager. One summer, I wrote "diary" about random events taking place every few days. A couple summers later, I wrote in journal form, "A Summer's Travels," covering only those portions of my summer that was spent traveling in Europe and Appalachia. The journal was more "topical."