See Diary (novel) for the novel by Chuck Palahniuk and Diary (album) for an album by Sunny Day Real Estate

A diary is a book for writing discrete entries arranged by date. It can be used for recording in advance of appointments and other planned activities, and/or for reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. Such logs play a role in many aspects of human civilization, including governmental, business, and military records. Diaries run the spectrum from business notations, to listings of weather and daily personal events, through to inner exploration of the psyche, or a place to express one's deepest self. Some use the words "diary and "journal" interchangeably while others apply strict differences to journals, diaries and journaling - dated, undated, inner focused, outer focused, forced, etc.

Some diarists think of their diaries as a special friend, even going so far as to name them. For example, Anne Frank called her diary "Kitty". There is a strong psychological effect of having an audience for one's self-expression, a personal space, or a "listener," even if this is a the book one writes in, only read by oneself.

More than 16,000 diaries have been published since book publishing began. See List of diarists.

Additionally, the diary is a popular form for works of fiction. See List of fictional diaries.



The word diary comes from the Latin diarium ("daily allowance", from dies, "day" - more often in the plural form diaria). The word "journal" comes from the same root (diurnus = of the day) through "journey".

The oldest extant diaries come from East Asian cultures. Pillowbooks of Japanese court ladies and Asian travel journals, being some of the oldest surviving specimens of this genre of writing.

Sales of "page a day" diaries go back hundreds of years (Letts, for example, is over 200 years old). At first, most of these books were used as ledgers, or business books. Samuel Pepys is the earliest diarist that is well known today, although he had contemporaries who were also keeping diaries. (John Evelyn for one.) Pepys also was apparently at a turning point in diary history, for he took it beyond mere business transaction notation, into the realm of the personal.

Until does seem that around the turn of 20th century, with greater literacy and industrialization throughout the globe, particularly the Western world, diary writing was mostly limited to the members of the higher socio-economic classes. In the West, at least, a high prortion of historical and literary figures from the Renaissance to the 20th century seem to have kept a diary. (see list below)

In the 1960s Tristine Rainer authored the book The New Diary. It was revolutionary in expanding awareness of diary-keeping as a literary genre. In the work she identified techniques that people use either spontaneously or have employed in their daily writing to explore themselves and their experience of the world in which they live. The idea, as expressed in the title, is that a diary is much more than a dry record of weather or daily events--it allows the writer to communicate deep and often spiritual realizations.

One of the most tempting things about diaries is that writing one is accessible to anyone with pen and paper. No education is needed. One doesn't need to know how to spell or use grammar. Writing a diary is something some people are driven to do, often as a way to put their existence into perspective. Too often diaries are perceived to be written only by teenage girls. The onslaught of diaries sold in "cute" colors with locks and keys helped this illusion. Now, many people prefer the word "journal" so as to avoid this common misconception.

Diaries/Journals and Healing

In the 1980s and 1990s diaries or journals became fertile ground for therapy. Many books have been published about how to write a diary (for increasing "self-awareness," for "finding your true self," and for healing from any number of personal troubles, including physical illness and trauma). An entire culture has evolved around the practice of journaling. There are many techniques to be attempted. (Many of these techniques enjoyed their first mention in Tristine Rainer's book.)

Internet Diaries

As Internet access became commonly available, people naturally adopted it as yet another medium with which to chronicle their lives, with the added dimension of having an audience (negating, to some, the very definition of "diary"). Apart from the odd tangent on USENET and posts to proprietary forums on the earliest Internet service providers, the first online personal diary is believed to be that of Carolyn Burke, which debuted on the web in January 1995. The number of people publishing web journals grew quickly, but for some time the practice was limited to people who had both internet access and a familiarity with HTML. However, several diverse communities of web diarists eventually developed.


Easy-to-use web-based services soon appeared to make online publishing easier. But the great explosion in personal storytelling came with the emergence of weblogs, also known as blogs. While the format was at first focused on external links and topical commentary, widespread weblog tools were quickly seized upon to create web journals - albeit consisting of short, spontaneous entries rather than crafted essays. Further, the weblog community was more naturally comfortable with networking and linking, creating a thriving online community. Much like the web diarist community that came before, there were cliques and protests over a supposed A-list of authors. Like online journals, "personal weblogs" are frequently maligned in the broader web log community as a form of "navel gazing."

Some weblog services are small and merely offer a way to publish your writing, while others have become true communities offering opportunities for feedback and communication with fellow diarists. While many of the people using these online communities are presumed to be teenage girls and young people (who perhaps see them as a way to keep their inner thoughts secret from their families while expressing and exploring their feelings and the experience of growing up), there's a fair amount of evidence that the stereotype is fading with the growing prevalence of journals and weblogs on the internet.

Online Services

Some "online diary" websites providers:

See also

eo:Taglibro ko:일기 nl:Dagboek ja:日記 pl:Dziennik vo:Delabuk zh:日记


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