Science magazine recently released a study on the effects of diary writing for college and high school students. The results showed that students experiencing test anxiety and who wrote about their disquiet in a diary right before the exam performed better on the test by half a grade.
Dictionaries and diaries are old friends; what better way to learn new words than expressing your thoughts in writing? We welcome this bit of educational news as an excuse to talk about the precise origin of “diary” and some of its history.
Diary comes from the Latin word diarium. You’ll recognize the first part of that word as di-, “day” in modern English. The suffix “-arium” and it’s more modern equivalent “-ary” show up in many words you use every day: library, stationary, revolutionary. If you haven’t guessed already, the suffix means “in connection with or pertaining to.” A diary is just that, a daily log that records the events that happened over the course of the day. The playwright Ben Jonson, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was the original shortener of diarium to diary. The word first appeared in 1605 in his play Volpone.
Diaries differ from journals in that they are updated daily. In the modern use of the word, a diary is of a private nature, often written for an audience of one. Recently, diaries have moved online as web logs or blogs. These differ from the personal, handwritten sort of diary by aiming for a large audience. The linguistic qualities that make a person’s writing and speech unique are their idiolect. A diary is a sort of gym for the idiolect.
Do you keep a diary? Have you found it a useful remedy to test anxiety? Tell us what you think.
I’ve been writing in diaries/journals since I was twelve and I’m thirty. It has always been a soothing activity; helped make any incident easier to comprehend. I have to admit I get guilty for not keeping up with it. This might provoke me to start up a new one.
I’ve kept a journal/diary for more than 20 years. Still have the early ones. Journaling never fails to bring clarity of mind, especially when I confused or frustrated with circumstances. I also notice a calming effect on most occassions.
Whenever I am stressed I pull out a piece of paper and write about it from a third person point of view. Makes my problem seem less important.
Woot! FIRST COMMENT! I keep a JOURNAL! IT’S MORE MANLY!
The design of this page has two flaws:
1) the font size in the three boxes above this (name, email and website) is a bit larger than it needs to be, but the font size of this box is tiny by comparison — far too small, given how large the others are (so that I do not want to increase the browswer text size for the entire window).
2) the image of a book at top left of the main text has too much margin around it, an unattractive border (presumably representing the fact that the image has a hyperink on it), and given the thick border is far too close to the text to its right. It needs at least an em of padding-right. As it is, it’s ugly.
neat! I kept a diary for years
[...] artykuł: Dear diary . . . What's the word for the qualities that make your … and-diaries, and-some, are-old, its-, learn-new, precise, the-precise, thoughts, what-better, [...]
I’ve tried to keep diaries, but I prefer to write fictional stories in the first person, with a character based on me. It is much more satisfying to me to write a comedy/adventure about another version of myself than to write about the boring goings-ons of my life.
I have made many alter egos this way. My favourite so far is Grace, a girl living in the fourteenth century who was orphaned and raised (in secret) by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Nice incorrect use of punctuation Ian.
I keep a diary, both public and private. I’m sure I’ll always have one.
HA! I recently rediscovered my first diary. It was such fun to see what my 7-year-old self thought of the world.
@Ian P. Hudson: Your comment adds absolutely nothing to the conversation. Please quit trolling.
On topic, I try to keep a diary, but I never write in it everyday. I just don’t have the time. Plus, who has that interesting of a life that they need to update something everyday? For the most part, my day-to-day is constant and new things seldom happen.
had one lost it the same
No I don’t keep a diary it was never my thing
[...] don’t know no ‘DIARY’ as an idiolect for speech, ya know. — Uh, people speak and write differently — though a [...]
[...] is? Tweeted. Today’s word of the day, however, isn’t a word. Dictionary.com talks about the benefits of writing in a diary. For example, some studies have shown that writing in a diary before taking a test can actually [...]
Heheh I had several diaries when I was younger, but I hated it when people tried to look at them >> But the only one I completely filled out was the one I got in 5th grade. It was a Hello Kitty one, and I wrote in it a lot. XD Even dreams and stuff.
I have a current one, but I haven’t wrote in it much except for when I’m going somewhere, like camping or to the Philippines o-o; Even then I bring it to all my trips. Maybe one day I’ll get into diary writing again XD
I tried to keep a diary, but I would always stop after the first few pages. I’ve always preferred to draw than to write, so that might have caused all my failed diary attempts. A sketchbook, however, I use until the very last page, and then I have already bought another brand new sketchbook to draw some more with. I post my art online at thepuddingmonster.deviantart.com, in case anyone was curious.
Yeah I keep a diary/journal. I don’t write in it daily but I do whenever I feel the need to writed something out or let something out that I can’t clearly express by talking to someone. Mostly because paper has a tendency not to critique. ^u^ I call it “paper venting”
I have kept a journal since i was 5..or well since i could use a pencil.
I agree that it is a very soothing process, its like my problems escape escape through the ink, although when im reading its like i can feel the emotions presented, in the writing, its almost word empathy.
Also i have like a gazillion journals, like one for work, one for dreams, one for general etc.
Thanks Dictionary.com for the cool article!
i started to write a journal during my highschool days. Everytime i read those, it makes me feel like i am the most dumb person in the WWW. Like i always put all the negative things i had experience in life and all the heartaches and pains. There are some sort of happy thoughts in it, but quiet a few. Looking at myself right now, it makes me smile thinking how amazing God is for not letting me hold on to memories like that. I still have diary right now, but i just put happy thoughts in it. Negative things– it should be thrown away. Yes, good vibes.. )
ok first: ian yer a troll & i hope you get squaids. the purpose of this is to comment on the hot word blog for the day, not criticise the layout of the page it’s on.
now that that’s over with i think diaries are cool to write in and sometimes draw in. diaries are good to relieve stress and review the day. i have tried to keep a dream journal but never had time for it. i am now trying to keep up with a journal type thing for writing myself (under alter-egos) into books i am reading or have read. i also sometimes write down goings-on when i am travelling, just for something to do…
I keep a journal on the wordpad of my computer becuz I despise handwritting at length. But it is extremely helpful and allows a channel to self-evaluate, motivate, and clear my mind. Best decision I ever made.
mayb i should srt keeping a diary ….
but i HATE writing, even though ppl say im rlly good at it :\
Thanks for the interesting article. It was of some beneficence to me, as I learned a new word – idiolect.
Say, I have an idea for another article you (the writer(s) of the Hot Word Blog) could implement. How about an article on the genesis and history of the word ‘hijack’ and how it’s related to theft?
I have tried keeping a diary many times, but I just can’t keep doing it.
I just don’t have the attention span.
I go through periods of frantic and dedicated journal-writing in between long stretches of nothing at all – I always see the benefits when I do it but it just ends up falling by the wayside (a phrase that you could investigate, perhaps?).
Wanted to say, I love your blog – it’s perfect for those word freaks like us who could follow all the links in cross-references and asides for ages and never get bored. Keep it up!
i keep a diary but rarely write in it. i like to act out things rather than write.
Thanks for the new article. It’s interesting. I do keep a diary
U SHALL NVR NOE!
I had a diary once when I was 14. All I can tell you is that it bit me in the butt when my granny found it and I ended up in youth detention for two years and never got to go back home. So yeah I will never have one again. So much for private thoughts being private, huh?
i love my diary. whenever i write in it it makes me feel as if i am letting all my worries out to my best friend. its just, freshening; soothing….
hey my name is maddie i am doing my third grade definitions homework basicly but i do right in a diary and stuff
i started using diary in 2002 and up to now of year 2011, i am still using my diary. i find it very interesting and if ever i want to reminisce i just go over the pages of my diaries (i have 11 diaries already and have compilled them by year) and whisper how days move so fast. i don’t have any problems if anyone will be able to read it because i made something innovative so that people who will read it will think its a piece of junk, useless notes, but as a matter of fact, it got my stories in life…this piece of article is very good, i always wanted to know how diary started and how did they come up with the word diary….nice one…two thumbs up for this article….
>>to: Misanthrope on January 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm
i like your idea,that makes me think too, how did they come up with the word “hijack” i hope they’ll write something about it…
u guys BARLEY GO ON AND POST AT NIGHT WHY
I like pie too! ;D
I LOVE MINECRAFT SOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH
BOOM BE YADA BOOM BE YADA BOOM BE YADA BOOM BE YADA
I have been a diarist since adolscence, and I am now 60.
One of the consistently surprising and valuable things I have noticed is when reading my own entries at a later time, durational themes become evident, which exceed the context of specific thoughts on any one, particular day.
Incidentally, I once read that Queen Victoria faithfully kept detailed personal diaries throughout her long reign, ordered in her will to be burned upon her death. Considering the span of her years and the world events to which she was privvy, those would have presented some very fascinating reading, I am sure.
can somebody PLEASE respond!!!!
Reading these entries brought tears to my eyes! I have kept a diary for most of my adult life. The most important diary was the one I kept when my first husband asked me for a divorce (completely by surprise). My diary acted as my therapist to deal with the trauma of the change and starting life over. I can’t imagine not writing and sorting things out on paper.
Awsome!!!! I just had finals today and I studied hard for it. It’s funny because I DID write in my diary just last night! Hopefully I did better! I wrote down my stress and anxiety and my thoughts about how I felt I might and wanted to do. Who knew there was a study about it?
Thanks a lot!
I’ve journaled since… Goodness, since forever.
I started out writing in a journal, but I didn’t write everyday and ended up losing it. I repeated the process numerous times before I finally abandoned the idea.
At least, I thought I did. While I didn’t write in an official journal, I wrote every where I could find. The middle page of my math notebook, that scrap piece of paper, my leg, this random Word document, everywhere I could find some space, thoughts began pouring out of my mind. Finally, I couldn’t take the scatteredness anymore, being the OCD child that I am, and I began a blog that I could update with my phone or computer.
Although, I sheepishly admit that I keep a diary in my purse anyway, just to scratch that itch when it comes =D
To those who have been journaling for years, I congratulate you! It’s not easy to force yourself to write everyday! Now you have a lovely vault of thoughts and memories. Amazing, isn’t it? =)
To those who think that no one’s life is interesting enough to document everyday, let me explain: It’s not so much that a particular day is interesting, rather that a particular way of looking at it is. The way you looked at life at the age of 13 is much different than the way you’ll look at it at 29. And your way of thinking is far far different than, for example, mine. So it’s not so much documenting daily events as much as daily thoughts, thought processes and the changes in such.
Personally, I even find the difference between my entries last year and my entries this year fascinating =)
nice article i dont keep a diary though…
funny i also think “DI” means “2″ so if we translate it we get 2 in connection with or to?
try reading your old pages once in a while and you’ll end up reading them more often.:D
ian hudson, it is cool that you try to elp people and give feedback, but honestly?? that is not what this blog is for. I would suggest you contact the site manager/editor if there is a problem, not post it so that you ridicule the site maker in front of everybody. Oh yes, and i keep a journal too, but it is fairly depressing because I only write in it when I am sad. I am not generally a sad person, so it is fairly small : )
‘Diaries differ from journals in that they are updated daily’
I would take issue with that because the ‘jour’ prefix in journal means day in French and likely comes from something similar and to that effect in Latin. I had assumed, based on other words, that ‘nal’ would mean per in this instance. Therefore Journal would mean ‘per day’ and pretty well the same thing as Diary.
Granted I may be basing that on flimsy, poorly researched evidence but I think the two words mean very much the same thing anyway, and this ‘updated daily’ clause is not one I would associate with the defintion.
I write poetry, not in diaries or in journals, but none the less I love it. Whenever I write poetry, I write from inspiration from within, of emotions and who-knows-what-else. Though many times has it been that it’s been thanks to these turbulent emotions. Thanks for submitting this article, after all it was quite a delight to read. =’3
well writing diaries is the deeper world reading and divulges the unknown. A diary is the odyssey to the “unheard melodies”- symphony that mingles sweet & bitter as it is an emblem of life and yet much beyond life.
i ve been wrirting diary since i was `12.i used to record all sorts of stuff in it . like how my day passed. what i did, whom i met, how i feel for others….that sort of stuff . then one day, some1 for whom i had regretably used bad words, read it.it created a whole lotttt of problems for me that r still casting their dark shadow on my life to this day…( i hate when people try to read other people,s stuff)…that was the last day i wrote it …six years have past.i miss my dear diary.
@Marx Lenn Mendoza: Hopefully they will have more force compelling them to write a weblog on hijack and company if two regular dictionary.com visitors/commenters like us are requesting that they do. I really do think it would be a good idea.
This is from Dictonary.com,
Word Origin & History
c.1355, “book of church services,” from Anglo-Fr. jurnal “a day,” from O.Fr. journal, originally “daily” (adj.), from L.L. diurnalis “daily” (see diurnal). Sense of “daily record of transactions” first recorded 1565; that of “personal diary” is 1610, from a sense found in French. Journalism is 1833 in Eng., likewise from Fr. (where it is attested from 1781).
I’ve kept a diary since I was 11. I’m almost 20 now and have lost most of them. I keep my logs on my computer now. Writing used to be the only thing that would help me move through my anger. I would pick up a pen and feel better after writing about how shitty this world can be to children. Doesn’t do much to relieved frustration any more, but it doesn’t help me think and put things in perspective.
I am an Indonesian. My English is so bad and I want to improve my English :’( I am tired of writing a diary with English language because when I wanna write something, I keep thinking the sentence which i wanna write…… How I wish to have a good English…. and I want to type English without thinking the sentence through my brain……….
i am glad to say diaries is the best way to learn good English or any other languawg because i am doing IELTS test parctist last six months whan i was give fast IELTS test i was got score 3.5 but after that my teacher she was provoke me write the words and keep with u perhaps i got 7.0 scor in IELTS so i certainly agree to make diaries
Writing is quite therapeutic; it’s always a great way for me to unleash my anger (and other fervent emotions such as apprehension) in an effective, harmless way. Since I’ve been living in Korea (for the past four months), I’ve been keeping a journal to record my daily life encounters within the culture. I didn’t know about idiolect and would have to agree that diary writing is a way to exercise one’s own idiolectic style.
Its very good habit Its very nice to recollect those memories back by going through it; keep it up
writing and keeping a diary is like having my best friend with me and tell that friend whatever i want and whenever i want……….
it draws me away from the lonely feeling and gives me a chance to pour out all my thoughts…………
i love my diary and i can feel my father’s affection, my mother’s love and my friend’s everlasting friendship when i am writing in it…:)
I love writing and in less than a year i shall be off to collage in valdosta state to become a writer!!!!!!!!!! I can’t wait!!!!!!!!! Also loved the blog!!!!!!!
“…and it’s more modern equivalent…” – all this “talk” and no one has noticed the incorrect form of “its” in this sentence??? Sorry, just one of my pet peeves that is SO easy to remember: use apostrophe ONLY, ONLY!, when you can substitute “it is” and still have your sentence read correctly.
Love the blog but this is a dictionary/linguistic site … Please get it right.
I have kept a diary for the past 25 years and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I find that my diary defines my days and it is the recepticle for my thoughts, for pictures, cards I receive, letters as well as the events, trivial or otherwise, which take place in my life each day. Ps: it is unnecessary to differentiate between the concept of diary and journal; most people make their entries a hold-all for both thoughts and events either on a daily basis or when the fancy strikes them. I like Treor McInsley’s comment above. It highlights the fact that there is no distinction between the two.
What a great idea!~! Creative writing is a ‘direct-connect’ to our personalities and a window to our emotions…that’s how I feel. Sometimes, I quote musicians words to songs hat I like within my
private diary entrues…that makes it personal. Diaries can rekindle
our love of writing, while exercising our minds. ~Cool!^!~
I have been writing in a journal since New Years 2002. That was nine years ago; I was eleven. Eleven, for Chrissake. Wow, I can’t believe that I was so callow when I began writing. Anyhow, I think keeping a diary is a good way to catalogue your existence. The most important history to you is your own history. Try writing down a sentence or two about the day writ large, or about a small detail that you might have to train yourself to try and notice. For instance, maybe you saw that your Mother was wearing mismatched socks, which is something she never does. Maybe you realized that your lover whispers certain words by accident. Today, I wrote in my diary the beginning of a story I’m working on.
in the present scenerio of the world i think everyone’s diaries will have the account.it seems to be a mundane life where even sensiblities are of the same design.
I had some journals/diaries in like middle scool but all i wrote was the bad stuff that ever happened to me and even then i would write like three pages in it and then i wouldnt touch it for like three months. I love to write stories and read booka dn like it says in my comment before i will become a writer of novels that will amaze tyhe world because I am a one of a kind person. “And as my book comes to an end the world shall learn how to make two lovers outta friends” LOL. Something from my future book!
It would be nice if Dictionary.com had fully cited the Science Magazine article. I’d like to read it for myself.
sorry about some of the typeo people. I was in a hurry and should of slowed down…..and checked my work before i posted. LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m 62 years old and have dabbled in journaling since I was a kid. I now keep a “blessings” journal on my laptop and at work on my computer with a short-cut to the screen.
When something positive, funny, uplifting happens I click on my icon & quickly make a note of it. It has helped me focus on the positive and not wallow in the negative.
I did some journaling when my children were young. My son died at age 16. I am now finding bits of paper where I wrote funny things down that he had done or that we were doing. It has brought me great joy and laughter. I’m so glad that I wrote some things down. Wish I had journaled more and been more organized about it.
I had children before there were computers. I lived in Kansas and my parents lived in NY. The best way to communicate then was by letter. After my son died, my mother took all the letters that I had sent about my son. She also took all her letters that she had sent to others that had references about my son. She put them together in a journal for me.
Wow – so much fun to read over and over when I’m melancholy. Pretty soon I’m smiling.
I also have my blog now that I do some journaling that I’m willing to share. Journaling helps me think – helps me figure things out. I can write things down and then read them. I don’t know what it is – but I finally realize how my thinking has been faulty or distorted. Journaling has probably kept me out of a psych unit for depression.
It’s very therapeutic. And seems to release the tension. Journaling and diaries have the potential to stabilize each of us.
It’s in the speaking we seldom contemplate — in the writing we do. — Thanks for freedom of expression — and acccepting criticism too. Arf.
I wish my diary could have improved my life a little more; I take back what I said about people, too!
when younger i tried keeping a journal, I hated it. Just never liked writing at all.
i started writing a diary a year ago… and im already on my second book!
well, the reason why i started is because of the feeling i imagine myself having when i read it many years later… i look upon my life described in utter detail and wonder at the past years… its makes me happy to know that i havent wasted my life because i would read what i was doing with it
i enjoy writing in different languages mainly to practice them
i also think its fun to write mirror-imaged and then see if i got the alphabets right by holding a mirror next to it! but i dont correct the wrong alphabets… they would lose their authenticity!
@Ian: your comment couldnt be more unnecessary
there is no need to criticise others just because youre incapable of seeing the actual meaning of even a simple text
so keep your negative comments to yourself because they dont interest anyone
I have so much to say that I don’t know where to begin. That is why my numerous attempts at journalizing or writing in a diary have failed. I recently retired after a nearly 40 year career as a psychotherapist and have witnessed the wonders of the written expession of experiences numerous times.
Just a comment @ Ian. Although you may be correct in your observations regarding the format of this page, your pomposity is extremely annoying and a waste of time for others.
If anything happens to me, my sister and my bestest have PROMISED to destroy my diaries (kept since I was a kid, I’m 46). Honestly, if I read my diaries, I’d seriously think I was deranged. I tend to write when I’m upset more than anything…basically, when a man is driving me CRAZY!
I’ve kept a diary on and off for the last 10 years. I need to start being more consistent.
Yeah thats cool my dad has a boat too.
im a loser i dont have a diary
@katherine i can help you speak english ^_^
tears tears! TEARS!!!!
I really enjoyed this post. These were some of the nicest blogs I have ever read. Not inflammatory. It seemed we were all pretty much in the same mind frame. I kept a journal from 5th grade till I was 24 or so. My boyfriend read my EXTREMELY private thoughts and was hurt by some things I said in it. That was absolutely therapy for me, but it also provided me an escape… I should have been able to be as honest with him as I was with my journal. We are still together, but I haven’t trusted him enough to feel comfortable to start up again. But I long for it. I named them (Dear Jayla) & they became my best friends with whom I could share anything. One day…
I am on my 4th diary since the age of about 14. I’m now 37. In my teens I destroyed 1 after a tantrum, and in my twenties I destroyed the 2nd one… after a hissy fit. I don’t destroy them anymore. I’m just more careful with what I write. I hardly ever go back to reading them but now write w/ the thought that one day my children would like to take a peek.
I’ve kept a diary since 10. I am 60 now. I discarded some of the early diaries years ago, which was a grave mistake. I can recall writing, but not what I wrote. Young people: DO NOT discard your favorite childhood toys, your childish drawings, your poetry and stories. You will one day regret it.
i just like it
My blog isn’t updated daily, so it either isn’t a diary, or it isn’t a blog.
Must be an electrournal, an electronic journal.
Ian P. Hudson, (6 comments down)are you really a chronic complainer?
Writting is soothing…..you should try it.
I love writing and I’m writing a memoir about my adventures (which are actually really exciting) but I could never keep a daily diary. I don’t have the time or commitment (no comments from the peanut gallery, please). That idea about writing about how stressed you are the day before a test sounds great. I have final exams this week, and I’m willing to try anything that can raise my grade. I’ll do it. I’ll post on here whether or not it works next week.
You know what sounds like a great idea? Writing down the best parts of your childhood in a memoir and keeping those forever. Especially if you lost your parents early on in life (my dad died from a seizure when I was six). That way, you’ll always remember them.
Please change the “it’s” in “and it’s more modern equivalent” to “its.” Thank you!
>> @ ms.karma on January 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm : i totally agree with you, for me whenever i read my previous pages, reminiscing the old times, i get very emotional and at the same time, be able to see of what i am right now and before…hayst…how do you feel whenever you read your previous pages?
>> @ Misanthrope on January 24, 2011 at 10:52 pm: i, again, agree with you, do you think they will be able to read our comments?
I’m suddenly feeling nostalgic for my middle school journal! Maybe I should take it up again….
journaling has given me the chance to look back (when I was going through tough times) and see that I survived and am actually a better person now.
Journaling is a wellspring of encouragement for me. I found that I have to concentrate to write the good, funny, and truth.
I found if I wrote down only my difficulties then all it did was reinforce my depression.
I suggest that anyone who journals include something positive that happened to you that day or that week. It’s amazing the difference that has made for me.
diaries are too subjective so i dont think anyone can write accurately on it…
Wilde asked: ” How do I know what my opinion is until I write it?
So the first time someone wrote the word ‘diary’, with this spelling, was Ben Johnson, at least as far as we know. You guys probably know this from OED, which is fine. But I wonder if there’s any place I can do the opposite, i.e., after I read an Elizabethan play, for example, I wish I could go somewhere and see if this work has any first instance of a word or a spelling. Can anyone help me?
When is it a “Journal” and when is it a “Ledger”…?
i too wanted to write in a diary but when i start to write i feel lazy and dizzy and then i don’t write further.
Thank you for that wise critique. Me & my neighbour were preparing to do some research about that. We obtained a good book on that matter from our local library and most books exactly where not as influensive as your data. I’m incredibly glad to see this kind of facts which I was searching for a long time.
I’ve been keeping a diary/journal since grade 6 ..my comfort zone
i’ve been writing in a diary/journal since i was in grade 2/1 :} keeps your thoughts organized and neat and it helps the flow of your day ;P
I’ve always found words more easily talking than writing. My Mom is my diary. I’ve tried to keep a written one, but never knew quite what to write. The closest I’ve come is typing fictional fragments or real musings on the word processor – it’s easier because if I want to change a word or add a sentence smack in the middle, I don’t have to use up an entire pencil eraser. However, since these are secret enough to type instead of talking about, and the idea is solely to sort out my thoughts and go on to the next thing, I usually read them over once and then delete them.
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i love to write my own lovely diaries
my diary is my life
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i have been keeping a journal since 2nd grade. im now in the 5th grade. i have filled 20 journals and am currently on the 21st. i write very often, usaully more than two entries a day. i write down everything. from what i did that day and how i felt about it. this was a very interesting article. i suggest journaling to all my friends. i hope to journal until the day i die. again, amaing article.
A journal is a private thing wear you can keep it to you’re self.
@cara, that is a fantastic idea! Thank you
This is awesome and magnificent!