There are many journals from different fields feature the word review in their name even though they are mostly featuring research articles – and not review articles, book reviews or similar. Some do not even accept review articles at all. Some examples are the Physical Review series, Geographical Review, Drug and Alcohol Review, Victorian Periodicals Review, and The Linguistic Review.

The only thing in this journal that is somehow connected to review is the peer-review and the consequential revision of the articles, but if this feature were eponymous, I would expect names like Physical Reviewed.

The very sparse information about the history of these journals reveiled nothing about the motivation for naming them such, and neither did dictionaries. For example, from Merriam–Webster’s definitions of review:


3 : a general survey (as of the events of a period)

4 : an act or the process of reviewing


6 a : a critical evaluation (as of a book or play)
   b : a magazine devoted chiefly to reviews and essays

7 a : a retrospective view or survey (as of one's life)
   b (1) : renewed study of material previously studied (2) : an exercise facilitating such study


None of these fits the aforementioned journals. They aren’t surveys, evaluations, devoted to reviews and essays, retrospective or renewed studies, nor do they contain them.

Why are these journals called review?

  • 1
    My guess is that it might be "review" in the sense of "what has happened since the last issue", I.e. an overview on what is new
    – Gerhard
    Feb 17, 2016 at 21:54
  • This is perhaps more germane in HSM
    – vonbrand
    Feb 19, 2016 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


Among the various meaning of review, the Oxford English Dictionary reports (2.1):

[OFTEN IN NAMES] A periodical publication with critical articles on culture and current events: 'the New Left Review'

A similar definition can be also found in the Random House Webster's, 2nd ed., (on paper):

A periodical publication containing articles on current events or affairs, books, art, etc.

The above definitions do not seem to imply journals publishing only review papers in the common scientific sense.

The Online Etymology Dictionary yields for review (bold mine):

mid-15c., "an inspection of military forces," from Middle French reveue "a reviewing, review," noun use of fem. past participle of reveeir "to see again, go to see again," from Latin revidere, from re- "again" (see re-) + videre "to see" (see vision). Sense of "process of going over again" is from 1560s; that of "a view of the past, a retrospective survey" is from c. 1600. Meaning "general examination or criticism of a recent work" is first attested 1640s.

I think that journal papers can be considered "examinations of a recent work", that is, a review in the sense highlighted above.

It is worth noting that this usage of the noun review to denote a periodical publication is widespread also in other languages: in French, with the word revue, and in Italian with the word rivista. The note at the top of the last link says (lousy translation mine):

nel sign. di «periodico» è modellato sul fr. revue, che a sua volta ricalca l’ingl. review

(with the meaning of "periodical", the term is modelled on the French revue which, in turn, follows from the English review)

  • 1
    I think this is the correct answer. And note that the sense involve isn't just peculiar to English. Lots of Spanish and Italian journals have the word "revisita" in the title. Same for "revue" in french. The cognate term doesn't seem to be common in the germanic languages though, so maybe it's mainly a romance language thing?
    – user10636
    Feb 17, 2016 at 23:46
  • @Shane: by chance, I've just added a note about other languages ;-) Feb 17, 2016 at 23:48
  • Great minds think alike!
    – user10636
    Feb 18, 2016 at 0:02
  • Interesting. In Spanish, "periodical" is "revista" (literally "review", from exactly the same Latin stem mentioned).
    – vonbrand
    Feb 19, 2016 at 2:35
  • @shane, more to the point, many English language "journals" aren't precisely published daily.
    – vonbrand
    Feb 19, 2016 at 2:37

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