Account: Old French acunte-r, aconte-r (Provençal acontar, acomtar) < late Latin accomptā-re for *accomputā-re, < ac- = ad- to + computā-re to calculate ( < com- together + putā-re to reckon). In 14th cent. conter, in the original sense of computāre ‘count,’ began to be artificially respelt conpter, compter, after the Latin, the natural spelling conter remaining in the sense of narrāre ‘tell’; the variant spellings passed to aconter and English account, accompt, though here with no corresponding division of meaning. The doubled -c- is part of the same refashioning
- 1: the system of recording and summarizing business and financial transactions and analyzing, verifying, and reporting the results; also : the principles and procedures of accounting
- 2a : work done in accounting or by accountants
- b : an instance of applied accounting or of the settling or presenting of accounts
Accounting is defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) as "the art of recording, classifying, and summarizing in a significant manner and in terms of money, transactions and events which are, in part at least, of financial character, and interpreting the results thereof."
Accounting is thousands of years old; the earliest accounting records, which date back more than 7,000 years, were found in Mesopotamia (Assyrians). The people of that time relied on primitive accounting methods to record the growth of crops and herds. Accounting evolved, improving over the years and advancing as business advanced.
Early accounts served mainly to assist the memory of the businessperson and the audience for the account was the proprietor or record keeper alone. Cruder forms of accounting were inadequate for the problems created by a business entity involving multiple investors, so double-entry bookkeeping first emerged in northern Italy in the 14th century, where trading ventures began to require more capital than a single individual was able to invest. The development of joint stock companies created wider audiences for accounts, as investors without firsthand knowledge of their operations relied on accounts to provide the requisite information. This development resulted in a split of accounting systems for internal (i.e. management accounting) and external (i.e. financial accounting) purposes, and subsequently also in accounting and disclosure regulations and a growing need for independent attestation of external accounts by auditors.
Today, accounting is called "the language of business" because it is the vehicle for reporting financial information about a business entity to many different groups of people. Accounting that concentrates on reporting to people inside the business entity is called management accounting and is used to provide information to employees, managers, owner-managers and auditors. Management accounting is concerned primarily with providing a basis for making management or operating decisions. Accounting that provides information to people outside the business entity is called financial accounting and provides information to present and potential shareholders, creditors such as banks or vendors, financial analysts, economists, and government agencies. Because these users have different needs, the presentation of financial accounts is very structured and subject to many more rules than management accounting. The body of rules that governs financial accounting in a given jurisdiction is called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP.