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What Does "Just for the Record" Mean?

Daniel Liden
Updated May 23, 2024
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"Just for the record" is an idiom in the English language used to indicate that a person is trying to clarify his ideas or his stance on a given issue to a group of listeners or readers. An idiom is a phrase with a figurative meaning that differs somewhat from the commonly accepted literal meaning. Literally, someone would use this phrase in order to get a given statement officially on a public record, such as might happen when someone is being interviewed by a reporter for a newspaper. People most commonly say it in normal conversation, however, when nothing that is said is actually being recorded for any public record.

The phrase is idiomatic because its commonly understood use has nothing to do with an actual public record. Generally speaking, someone might say that a comment is "just for the record" to make sure that his position about a particular topic is very clear, no matter what else he might say that could be taken to mean something different. The "record" is neither tangible nor accessible by "the public," but the saying still prompts people to take note of the speaker's actual opinions and ideas.

"More precisely, a person might say "just to set things straight," as it is most commonly applied in situations in which a speaker or writer feels the need to clarify or prevent a misconception or misunderstanding. There is no physical "record" involved in this usage. A lecturer who is presenting the philosophical arguments against free will, for instance, may tell this listeners "just for the record, I do believe in free will" in order to make it clear that the arguments he is presenting do not reflect his own beliefs.

Another common usage of the idiom involves clarifying a person's motivation for saying something or engaging in a particular action. The individual may use the idiom to point out that he is asking many aggressive questions not because he disagrees but because he does not understand. Alternately, someone may use it to explain why he did something that appeared particularly unintelligent. A person who shows up to work in soaking wet clothes, for instance, may justify his failure to take an umbrella by saying "for the record, the weatherman never said anything about rain today."

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Daniel Liden
By Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden, a talented writer with a passion for cutting-edge topics and data analysis, brings a unique perspective to his work. With a diverse academic background, he crafts compelling content on complex subjects, showcasing his ability to effectively communicate intricate ideas. He is skilled at understanding and connecting with target audiences, making him a valuable contributor.
Discussion Comments
By Perdido — On Mar 11, 2012

@StarJo – I think politicians use this phrase a little too much at times. Granted, they are under a lot of pressure from the public, but the more you say “just for the record,” the less powerful it becomes.

If a politician says this phrase before every strong point he makes, then we get tired of hearing it, and it loses meaning. However, if he uses it to state his innocence of whatever his opponents are claiming he is guilty of and he uses it just for that one instance, then it is potent.

I remember one local candidate for the mayor's office stating, “Just for the record, I fully support the initiative for a new city park.” He said this after someone accused him of wanting to turn the land into a shopping mall instead. This was a helpful use of the phrase.

By wavy58 — On Mar 11, 2012

This phrase is much safer to use than its relative, “off the record.” If anyone is ever being interviewed by a reporter, they should realize that nothing is ever off the record. Simply by saying that, the person has piqued the reporter's interest in what will follow, as it will likely be the juiciest bit, and it might just end up the focal point of the story, against the person's wishes.

In contrast, when a person says “just for the record,” it generally means they want the reporter to print what they are about to say. The are not ashamed of it, and they want to make it loud and clear that they believe what they are saying.

I have seen this phrase used in the local newspaper many times by officials who were wanting to counter a rumor or some complaint that had been made against them. I think it is a viable phrase, and going on the record never hurts anything.

By lighth0se33 — On Mar 10, 2012

I remember kids in high school using this phrase. It would usually be in reference to some piece of gossip or rumor they had heard about themselves that they wanted to debunk.

Once, there was a rumor going around that my best friend was trying to steal another girl's boyfriend. She was angry that this was being said about her, because it wasn't true. She actually stood up on a table in the cafeteria and yelled out, “Just for the record, I am not interested in your boyfriend!”

Kids often used this phrase in anger. They wanted to protect their reputations, and by the time these words became necessary, things had usually gotten heated.

By StarJo — On Mar 09, 2012

I usually associate the phrase “just for the record” with politicians. Especially during campaign season, they are constantly using these words to emphasize their conviction on certain points.

Unlike most people's words, though, politicians' statements often do wind up in the record of the public's mind. They have to be careful when choosing their words, and when they state something emphatically, it is helpful for them to precede the statement with the phrase “just for the record.”

I can't imagine being scrutinized constantly by the public. I would probably put my foot in my mouth often, just because I would be trying to be so careful. This phrase would likely become a part of my vocabulary, too.

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden, a talented writer with a passion for cutting-edge topics and data analysis, brings a unique perspective to...
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