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. Jun 10 '12 at 2:22
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    They're largely synonymous, though diary sometimes implies something more personal and/or private. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 10 '12 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 Nov 24 '14 at 1:59

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.


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. Jun 10 '12 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 Nov 9 '12 at 2:05
  • @J.R. : "Access Denied" – TOOGAM Nov 5 '16 at 13:56

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 Jun 18 '14 at 8:21
  • To me, the source does not support your statement in the first paragraph, and almost contradicts it. – Torsten Schoeneberg Apr 4 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."

protected by tchrist Nov 24 '14 at 0:49

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