The common abbreviation for the accounting term “debit” is a puzzling one—“Dr.” Today, particularly with our depersonalized treatment of the accounting or bookkeeping “debit,” there is no obvious clue as to why there is an “r” in “debit” at all. An investigation of the history and evolution of the “debit” in bookkeeping reveals the reason for the abbreviation—a reason almost totally lost without historical perspective. Whereas the accounting “debit” is now viewed as a “technical” term, devoid of any value considerations, referring simply to the left side of a journal entry or ledger account, this was not always the case. Originally, “debits” did have a “bad” side. They were used to record the debts of the merchant or businessman. Debits were debtors. And the abbreviation for “debtor” is “Dr.”

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