Accrued refers to a gradual accumulation of something over time. For example, an individual accrued vacation pay during a year of employment, or a business accrued interest expense on an outstanding loan payable. Thus, the concept is closely associated with the passage of time.

The term is most closely linked to the accrual of expenses, which occurs under the accrual basis of accounting when an obligation has been incurred, but there is not yet any associated supplier invoice. This means that an expense is accrued for the reporting period, and then is reversed in the next period, when the supplier invoice is expected to arrive. The net effect is that recognition of the expense is accelerated.