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  1. the theory and system of setting up, maintaining, and auditing the books of a firm; art of analyzing the financial position and operating results of a business house from a study of its sales, purchases, overhead, etc. (distinguished from bookkeeping).
  2. a detailed report of the financial state or transactions of a person or entity: an accounting of the estate.
  3. the rendering or submission of such a report.
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Origin of accounting

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at account, -ing1
Can be confusedaccounting bookkeeping finance(s)


  1. an oral or written description of particular events or situations; narrative: an account of the meetings; an account of the trip.
  2. an explanatory statement of conduct, as to a superior.
  3. a statement of reasons, causes, etc., explaining some event.
  4. reason; basis: On this account I'm refusing your offer.
  5. importance; worth; value; consequence: things of no account.
  6. estimation; judgment: In his account it was an excellent piece of work.
  7. an amount of money deposited with a bank, as in a checking or savings account: My account is now with Third National.
  8. Also called charge account. an accommodation or service extended by a business to a customer or client permitting the charging of goods or services, the returning for credit of unsatisfactory merchandise, etc.: Do you have an account at this store? My account with the restaurant is past due.
  9. a statement of financial transactions.
  10. Bookkeeping.
    1. a formal record of the debits and credits relating to the person, business, etc., named at the head of the ledger account.
    2. a balance of a specified period's receipts and expenditures.
  11. Commerce.
    1. a business relation in which credit is used.
    2. any customer or client, especially one carried on a regular credit basis.
    3. Also called advertising account.the business assigned to an advertising agency by a client: The toothpaste account was awarded to a new agency last year.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to give an explanation (usually followed by for): to account for the accident.
  2. to answer concerning one's conduct, duties, etc. (usually followed by for): to account for the missing typewriters.
  3. to provide a report on money received, kept, and spent.
  4. to cause (usually followed by for): The humidity accounts for our discomfort. His reckless driving accounted for the accident.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to regard; consider as: I account myself well paid.
  2. to assign or impute (usually followed by to): the many virtues accounted to him.
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  1. call to account,
    1. to hold accountable; blame; reprimand: Call them to account for having endangered their lives.
    2. ask for an explanation of.
  2. give a good/bad account of, to do something or conduct oneself in a good (bad, etc.) manner: She gave a good account of herself in the tennis tournament.
  3. hold to account, to hold responsible; hold accountable or culpable: If any of the silver is missing, I'm going to hold you to account.
  4. on account, as an installment or a partial payment: I can't pay the balance, but here's $10 on account.
  5. on account of,
    1. by reason of; because of.
    2. for the sake of: She saw it through on account of me.
  6. on all accounts, in any case; under any circumstances.Also at all accounts.
  7. on no account, under no circumstances; absolutely not: On no account should you buy that painting without having it appraised.
  8. take account of,
    1. to make allowance for; consider: One must take account of the difficult circumstances. Taking account of the high overhead, the price is not excessive.
    2. to notice or observe.
    Also take into account.
  9. turn to account, to derive profit or use from; turn to advantage: She has turned her misfortunes to account.
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Origin of account

1225–75; (noun) Middle English a(c)ount(e), ac(c)ompte < Anglo-French, Old French aco(u)nte, acompte; (v.) Middle English ac(co)unten < Old French acunter, acompter. See ac-, count1
Related formspre·ac·count, verbsub·ac·count, nounun·ac·count·ed, adjective


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Synonym study

1. See narrative.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for accounting


    1. the skill or practice of maintaining and auditing accounts and preparing reports on the assets, liabilities, etc, of a business
    2. (as modifier)an accounting period; accounting entity
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  1. a verbal or written report, description, or narration of some occurrence, event, etc
  2. an explanation of conduct, esp one made to someone in authority
  3. ground; basis; consideration (often in the phrases on this (that, every, no, etc) account, on account of)
  4. importance, consequence, or valueof little account
  5. assessment; judgment
  6. profit or advantageto turn an idea to account
  7. part or behalf (only in the phrase on one's or someone's account)
  8. finance
    1. a business relationship between a bank, department store, stockbroker, etc, and a depositor, customer, or client permitting the latter certain banking or credit services
    2. the sum of money deposited at a bank
    3. the amount of credit available to the holder of an account
    4. a record of these
  9. a statement of monetary transactions with the resulting balance
  10. (on the London Stock Exchange) the period, ordinarily of a fortnight's duration, in which transactions formerly took place and at the end of which settlements were made
  11. accounting a chronological list of debits and credits relating to a specified asset, liability, expense, or income of a business and forming part of the ledger
    1. a regular client or customer, esp a firm that purchases commodities on credit
    2. an area of business assigned to anotherthey transferred their publicity account to a new agent
  12. call to account or bring to account
    1. to insist on explanation
    2. to rebuke; reprimand
    3. to hold responsible
  13. give a bad account of oneself to perform badlyhe gave a bad account of himself in the examination
  14. give a good account of oneself to perform well
  15. on account
    1. on credit
    2. Also: to accountas partial payment
  16. on account of (preposition) because of; by reason of
  17. take account of or take into account to take into consideration; allow for
  18. settle accounts with or square accounts with
    1. to pay or receive a balance due
    2. to get revenge on (someone)
  19. See bank account, credit account
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  1. (tr) to consider or reckonhe accounts himself poor
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Word Origin

C13: from Old French acont, from conter, compter to count 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for accounting


"reckoning of numbers," late 14c., verbal noun from account (v.). Phrase no accounting for tastes (1823) translates Latin de gustibus non est disputandum.

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c.1300, "reckoning of money received and paid," from Old French acont "account, reckoning, terminal payment," from a "to" (see ad-) + cont "counting, reckoning of money to be paid," from Late Latin computus "a calculation," from Latin computare "calculate" (see compute).

Meaning "sum of (one's) money in a bank" is from 1833. Sense of "narration" is first attested 1610s. Plural accounts used as a collective or singular in phrases such as to give accounts (of something), is from mid-13c. Phrase by all accounts is attested from 1798.

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c.1300, "to count, enumerate," from Old French aconter "to count, render account" (Modern French conter), from a "to" (see ad-) + conter "to count, tell" (see count (v.)). Meaning "to reckon for money given or received, render a reckoning," is from late 14c.; sense of "to explain" (c.1710) is from notion of "answer for money held in trust." Transferred sense of "value" is from late 14c. Related: Accounted; accounting.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

accounting in Culture


The system of recording and auditing business transactions. (See audit.)

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with accounting


In addition to the idiom beginning with account

  • account for

also see:

  • all present and accounted for
  • by all accounts
  • call to account
  • give a good account
  • no accounting for tastes
  • on account of
  • on no account
  • on one's own account
  • take account of
  • take into account
  • turn to good account
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.