What is a Journal?

Definition: A journal or book of original entry is the place where journal entries are recorded before they are posted to the ledger accounts. A journal is a record of all the transactions a company has recorded.

What Does Accounting Journal Mean?

Companies use many different types of journals to record their transactions like the sales journal, cash receipts journal, and the accounts payable journal. All of these different journals are optional and can be used if the company wants to. The only journal that is used by all companies is the general journal.

A journal stores a complete record of every business transaction the company makes. This usually includes the transaction date, transaction description, accounts that were affected, as well as the debits and credits.


Here is an example of what a typical journal looks like.

Journal Entry Example

There are many different accounting journals and each journal is used for slightly different purposes. The general journal is used to record all general transactions that don’t fit into other journals. You can think of the general journal as the “catch all” journal.

The sales journal typically is used to record inventory or merchandise sales on credit.

Cash inventory or merchandise sales are usually recorded in the cash receipts journal. The cash receipts journal is also used for other cash sales.

The sales returns journal is used for merchandise that was sold but was later returned by customers.

Companies often use the purchases journal to record all inventory and equipment purchases as well. Businesses can use almost an infinite number of different journals, but most companies tend to use only a few.

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