AskDefine | Define diarist

Dictionary Definition

diarist n : someone who keeps a diary or journal [syn: diary keeper, journalist]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. One who keeps a diary.


One who keeps a diary

Extensive Definition

''For other uses of the term 'diary', see Diary (disambiguation).
A diary is a record (originally in written book format) with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. Diaries undertaken for institutional purposes play a role in many aspects of human civilization, including government records (e.g. Hansard), business ledgers, and military records. Schools or parents may teach or require children to keep diaries because they are a great way to express feelings and promote thought.
Generally the term is today employed for personal diaries, in which the writer may detail more personal information and normally intended to remain private or to have a limited circulation amongst friends or relatives. The word "journal" may be sometimes used for "diary," but generally one writes daily in a diary, whereas journal-writing can be less frequent.
Whilst a diary may provide information for a memoir, autobiography or biography, it is generally written not with the intention of being published as it stands, but for the author's own use. In recent years however there is internal evidence in some diaries (e.g. those of Alan Clark, Tony Benn or Simon Gray) that they are written with eventual publication in mind, with the intention of self-vindication (pre- or posthumous), or simply for profit.
By extension the term diary is also used to mean a printed publication of a written diary; and may also refer to other terms of journal including electronic formats (e.g.blogs).


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 Old French jurnal (modern French for day is jour).
Until around the turn of the 20th century, with the world-wide rise of literacy, diary writing was generally a practice of the members of the middle and upper classes.
The oldest extant diaries come from Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures. Pillowbooks of Japanese court ladies and Asian travel journals offer some aspects this genre of writing, although they rarely consist exclusively of diurnal records. The 9th century scholar Li Ao, for example, kept a diary of his journey through southern China.
In the medieval Near East, Arabic diaries were written from before the 10th century, though the surviving diary of this era which most resembles the modern diary was that of Ibn Banna in the 11th century. His diary is the earliest known to be arranged in order of date (ta'rikh in Arabic), very much like modern diaries.

Diaries and diarists

Diaries run the spectrum from business notations, to listings of weather and daily personal events, through to inner exploration of the human psyche, a place to express one's deepest self, or record one's thoughts and ideas.
A strong psychological effect may arise from having an audience for one's self-expression, a personal space, or a "listener," even if this is the book one writes in, only read by oneself. Anne Frank went so far as to name her diary "Kitty". Friedrich Kellner, a court official in Nazi Germany, thought of his diary as a weapon for any future fight against tyrants and terrorism, and named it "Mein Widerstand" - "My Opposition." Victor Klemperer was similarly concerned with recording for the future the tyrannies and hypocrisies of Nazi Germany and of its East German successor state in his diaries. In all of these cases however none of the authors anticipated early - or any - publication.

Published diaries

Many diaries of notable figures have been published and form an important element of autobiographical literature.
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) is the earliest diarist who is well-known today; his diaries, preserved in Magdalene College, Cambridge, were first transcribed and published in 1825. Pepys was amongst the first who took the diary beyond mere business transaction notation, into the realm of the personal. Pepys' contemporary John Evelyn also kept a notable diary.
The practice of posthumous publication of diaries of literary and other notables began in the 19th century. As examples, the 'Grasmere Journal' of Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855) was published in 1897; the Journals of Fanny Burney (1752-1840) were published in 1889; the diaries of Henry Crabb Robinson (1776-1867) were published in 1869.
Since the 19th century the publication of diaries by their authors has become a commonplace - notably amongst politicians seeking justification but also amongst artists and litterateurs of all descriptions. Amongst late 20th century British published political diaries, those of Richard Crossman, Tony Benn and Alan Clark are representative, the latter being more indiscreet in the tradition of the diaries of Chips Channon. In the field of the arts notable diaries were published by James Lees-Milne, Roy Strong and Peter Hall.
The writing of diaries was also often practised from the 20th century onwards as a conscious act of self-exploration (of greater or lesser sincerity) - examples being the diaries of Carl Jung, Aleister Crowley, and Anaïs Nin.

Pre-formatted diary blanks

Sales of printed "page a day" diaries (each page blank save for the date as a header) go back hundreds of years (Letts diary, for example, has been printed for over 200 years). At first, such books were principally used as ledgers, or business books.
Another popular pre-formatted version of the diary is the personal use of time management tools such as the Filofax or Franklin Planner.

Journal writing software

While some people use standard word processing software to keep electronic journals or diaries there are computer programs that are designed specifically for journal writing. Many have templates for daily, weekly, monthly or random entries. These programs have been designed to allow journal and diary writers to capture their thoughts as well as images, links or other notable information easily and in one location. All such software is, of course, an aid in the keeping of a journal or diary and not the actual creation of it. A number of these programs offer the ability to post journal entries to Blogs. Some examples of journal and diary software are: LifeJournal, Pyxlin, MacJournal, WinJournal & Alpha Journal. Some organizer software (e.g. Outlook and GoBinder) has the ability to make diary entries.

Internet diaries

See main articles online journal and blog.
As internet access has become commonly available, people have adopted it as another medium with which to chronicle their lives with the added dimension of an audience. The first online diary is thought to be Claudio Pinhanez's "Open Diary", published at the MIT Media Lab website from 14 November 1994 until 1996. Other early online diarists include Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal online diary-writing in 1994, , Carolyn Burke, who started publishing "Carolyn's Diary" on 3 January 1995, and Bryon Sutherland, who announced his diary The Semi-Existence of Bryon in a USENET newsgroup on On 19 April 1995 .
Web-based services soon appeared to streamline and automate online publishing, but the great explosion in personal storytelling came with the emergence of weblogs, or "blogs." While the format first focused on external links and topical commentary, widespread weblog tools were quickly used to create web journals, thought of as short, spontaneous entries rather than crafted essays.

Other forms of diary

Travel journals

A travel journal, travel diary, or road journal, is the documentation of a journey or series of journeys.

Workout journals

A workout journal, or exercise tracker, is a journal where one registers exercise undertaken, typically including length of workout and other comments.

Sleep diaries

A sleep diary or sleep log is a tool used in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.

Audio journals

An audio journal records the spoken word instead of the written word. Some people use tape recorders or voice recorders to document their life. There is also a company called LifeOnRecord that allows people to make a journal entry by making a call from any phone. Those recordings can then be preserved in CD format.


The German word Tagebuch (a literal translation being 'day book') is normally rendered as diary in English, although this may include workbooks or working journals as well as diaries proper; for example, the notebooks of the Austrian writer Robert Musil.

Unusual Diaries

Some officer cadets at the Royal Military College of Canada wrote their diaries in India ink on their t-squares. The Royal Military College of Canada Museum retains examples of college diaries from the 1890s.

Fictional diaries

There are numerous examples of fictional diaries. These include radio broadcasts (e.g. Mrs. Dale's Diary) and published books (e.g. the Diaries of Adrian Mole). The former prompted a long-running satirical feature in the magazine Private Eye, entitled Mrs Wilson's Diary.

External links

References and notes

diarist in Czech: Diář
diarist in Danish: Dagbog
diarist in German: Tagebuch
diarist in Spanish: Diario personal
diarist in Esperanto: Taglibro
diarist in French: Journal intime
diarist in Korean: 일기
diarist in Hindi: दैनन्दिनी
diarist in Indonesian: Buku harian
diarist in Italian: Diario
diarist in Hebrew: יומן
diarist in Georgian: დღიური (ჩანაწერი)
diarist in Dutch: Dagboek
diarist in Japanese: 日記
diarist in Norwegian: Dagbok
diarist in Norwegian Nynorsk: Dagbok
diarist in Polish: Dziennik (literatura)
diarist in Portuguese: Diário (agenda)
diarist in Romanian: Jurnal intim
diarist in Russian: Дневник (мемуары)
diarist in Serbo-Croatian: Dnevnik
diarist in Finnish: Päiväkirja
diarist in Swedish: Dagbok
diarist in Tagalog: Talaarawan
diarist in Vietnamese: Nhật ký
diarist in Ukrainian: Щоденник
diarist in Volapük: Delabuk
diarist in Walloon: Djournå (live)
diarist in Chinese: 日记

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Boswell, advertising writer, annalist, art critic, author, authoress, autobiographer, autobiographist, belletrist, bibliographer, biographer, calendar maker, calendarist, chronicler, chronographer, chronologer, chronologist, clockmaker, coauthor, collaborator, columnist, compiler, composer, copywriter, creative writer, critic, dance critic, drama critic, dramatist, encyclopedist, essayist, free lance, free-lance writer, ghost, ghostwriter, historian, historiographer, horologist, humorist, inditer, literary artist, literary craftsman, literary critic, literary man, litterateur, logographer, magazine writer, man of letters, memorialist, monographer, music critic, newspaperman, novelettist, novelist, pamphleteer, penwoman, poet, prose writer, reviewer, scenario writer, scenarist, scribe, scriptwriter, short-story writer, storyteller, technical writer, timekeeper, timer, watchmaker, word painter, wordsmith, writer
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