what are debit and credit

Accounting Basics: What is Debit and Credit with Examples?

Are you new to the accounting field? You may find various terms and concepts intimidating, including Debit and Credit. But fear not; they aren’t as difficult to understand as are generally believed.

The foundations of accounting lie in two fundamental concepts: Debit and Credit. These concepts form the backbone of accounting and are essential to understanding various financial statements and transactional activities.

This article will explore the meanings, differences, and examples of debit and credit to make these concepts easier to grasp.

What is Debit?

In accounting, debit refers to an entry that increases an asset or expense account or decreases a liability or equity account. The term ‘debit’ comes from the Latin “debere,” meaning “to owe.”

When you debit an account, you make a record that reflects an increase in assets or a decrease in liabilities.

Debit Example

Let’s say your company has just purchased office furniture worth $2,000. To record this transaction, you would debit the “Office Furniture” asset account by $2,000, signifying increased assets.

What is Credit?

Credit is the opposite of debit. In accounting terms, a credit entry increases a liability or equity account or decreases an asset or expense account. The word ‘credit’ is derived from the Latin “credere,” which means “to believe” or “to trust.”

what is debit and credit in accounting

Crediting an account could mean you are increasing the amount the business owes or adding to the business owners’ share of the company.

Credit Example

When purchasing office furniture worth $2,000, while you debit the “Office Furniture” asset account by $2,000, you would also credit the “Accounts Payable” liability account by the same amount, $2,000. This action represents an increase in the company’s obligations or liabilities.

The Accounting Equation

To fully grasp the role of debit and credit entries, one should be familiar with the basic accounting equation:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

The accounting equation must always balance. Therefore, every transaction affects at least two accounts, and the total debits equals the total credits.

Applying the Accounting Equation

Let’s revisit our office furniture example. Initially, the equation would look something like:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity = $0 = $0 + $0

After the purchase of office furniture on credit, the equation would be:

$2,000 (Assets) = $2,000 (Liabilities) + $0 (Equity)

As you can see, the equation still balances. The increase in assets is offset by an increase in liabilities, ensuring that both sides of the equation remain equal.

Debit and Credit in Journal Entries

Journal entries are the method used to depict how a transaction affects different accounts. An entry in the journal will include at least one debit and one credit to ensure the accounting equation remains balanced.

Journal Entry Example

For our office furniture purchase, the journal entry would look like:

Debit: Office Furniture $2,000

Credit: Accounts Payable $2,000

In this entry, the “Office Furniture” account is debited to increase the asset value, and the “Accounts Payable” account is credited to indicate an increase in liabilities.

Why Understanding Debit and Credit Matters

Mastering the concepts of debit and credit is critical for anyone pursuing a study or career in accounting. They are also vital to understand if you are running a business and must rely on accounting reports for decision-making.

Article: 9 Best Accounting Software for your small business

Debit and Credit are the basic building blocks for creating financial statements, conducting financial analysis, and evaluating a company’s financial health. A sound grasp of these concepts will help in advanced accounting tasks such as reconciliations, auditing, and financial reporting.

Tips for Fresh Accounting Students

  1. Practice Regularly: The more transactions you record, the more comfortable you’ll become with these concepts.
  2. Ask Questions: If you find understanding how a transaction affects different accounts difficult, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification from instructors or fellows.
  3. Use Resources: Various textbooks and online materials offer a wealth of practice problems and scenarios that can help you improve your understanding.
  4. Stay Updated: The principles behind debit and credit remain the same, but accounting standards can change. Staying updated will help you adapt to new practices effectively.

Debit and Credit Rules:

  • Increase (+) in asset recorded by debit, decrease (-) in asset recorded by credit.
  • Increase (+) in liability/equity recorded by credit, decrease (-) in liability/equity recorded by debit.
  • Increase (+) in income recorded by credit, decrease (-) in income recorded by debit.
  • Increase (+) in expense recorded by debit, decrease (-) in expense recorded by credit.

Debit and Credit Example Scenario: Purchase of Inventory, Payment of Wages, and Sale of Goods

Suppose you own a small retail business, and you engage in the following transactions during a specific period:

  1. Purchase of Inventory: You buy inventory worth $5,000 on credit.
  2. Payment of Wages: You pay $2,000 in wages to your employees.
  3. Sale of Goods: You sell inventory worth $8,000, receiving $4,000 in cash and the remaining $4,000 on credit.

Let’s break down how these transactions would be recorded in your accounting books.

1. Purchase of Inventory

For the inventory purchase on credit, you’d need to increase your assets (inventory) and your liabilities (accounts payable). Here’s how:

  • Debit: Purchase inventory $5,000 (Increase in Asset)
  • Credit: Accounts Payable $5,000 (Increase in Liability)

2. Payment of Wages

When paying wages, you would decrease your assets (cash) and recognize an expense (wages). The journal entry would look like:

  • Debit: Wages Expense $2,000 (Increase in Expense)
  • Credit: Cash $2,000 (Decrease in Asset)

3. Sale of Goods

This transaction affects multiple accounts—inventory, cash, accounts receivable, and sales revenue. Let’s break it down:

  • Debit: Cash $4,000 (Increase in Asset)
  • Debit: Accounts Receivable $4,000 (Increase in Asset)
  • Credit: Sales Revenue $8,000 (Increase in Equity)

Since the goods are sold, the inventory should be decreased:

  • Debit: Cost of Goods Sold $5,000 (Increase in Expense)
  • Credit: Inventory $5,000 (Decrease in Asset)

The Effect on Accounting Equation

Equation: Assets = Liabilities + Equity
  • Initial Accounting Equation:
    Assets = Liabilities + Equity
    $10,000 (Cash) = $0 (Liabilities) + $10,000 (Equity)
  • Revised Accounting Equation Post Inventory Purchase:
    Assets = Liabilities + Equity
    $10,000 (Cash) + $5,000 (Inventory) = $5,000 (Accounts Payable) + $10,000 (Equity)
  • Revised Accounting Equation Post Wage Payment:
    Assets = Liabilities + Equity
    $8,000 (Cash) + $5,000 (Inventory) = $5,000 (Accounts Payable) + ($10,000 (Initial Equity) – $2,000 (Wages Expense))
  • Revised Accounting Equation Post Sale of Goods:
    Assets = Liabilities + Equity
    $12,000 (Cash) + $0 (Inventory) + $4,000 (Accounts Receivable) = $5,000 (Accounts Payable) + ($10,000 (Initial Equity) + $8,000 (Sales Revenue) – $2,000 (Wages Expense) – $5,000 (Cost of Goods Sold))

As demonstrated, the accounting equation remains balanced after each transaction, thus upholding the fundamental accounting principle. Maintaining this balance is crucial to ensure accurate financial reporting and analysis.


The concepts of debit and credit are crucial in the field of accounting. They play a vital role in recording transactions, preparing financial statements, and maintaining the overall financial integrity of a business.

As you start learning accounting, remember that proficiency in these basics will set a solid foundation for more advanced topics. Keep practicing and seek out educational opportunities to grow your skills and knowledge.

More read: Budgeting Methods: 3 Ways that Work Best for Small Businesses



Most frequent questions and answers

In accounting, debit refers to the recording a journal entry increasing the asset or expense account or decreasing a liability or equity account. It is often abbreviated as “Dr.”

Credit in accounting records a journal entry increasing a liability or equity account or decreasing an asset or expense account. It is often abbreviated as “Cr.”

Debits and credits maintain the balance in the accounting equation: Assets = Liabilities + Equity. For every transaction, the amount debited should equal the amount credited to keep the equation balanced.

Yes, some transactions can affect more than two accounts. However, the rule that the total amount debited must equal the total amount credited still applies.

A journal entry records a business transaction in the accounting system. It includes at least one debit and one credit entry describing the accounts and amounts involved.

Contrary to common belief, debits and credits are not inherently positive or negative. Their effects depend on the type of account they are applied to. For instance, a debit increases asset accounts but decreases liability accounts.

 Real accounts are related to assets, liabilities, and equity. These accounts do not close at the end of an accounting period. On the other hand, nominal accounts are revenue, expense, and dividend accounts, reset at the end of each accounting period.

Sales revenue is typically credited to increase the Sales Revenue account. The debit entry would depend on the form of payment—Cash, Accounts Receivable, etc.

Prepaid rent is initially recorded as an asset through a debit entry. As the prepaid period progresses, an expense account is debited to recognize the cost, and the Prepaid Rent asset account is credited to decrease its value.

Yes, understanding the basic concepts of debit and credit is vital for anyone looking to delve into financial analysis or other advanced areas of accounting. Mastery of these fundamentals sets the stage for more complex analyses and tasks.

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