The IASB’s plans to reform accounting for goodwill prompt this paper’s discussion of the translation of the signifier “goodwill” (and the related terms: depreciation, amortisation and impairment). As a translation problem, this is unusually interesting because there are at least three different types of goodwill but all with the same signifier in English. The paper begins by noting the difficulties which biblical translators have “goodwill”. It then outlines the different types of accounting goodwill, recording the many terms used in eight languages. This includes a study of national regulations and the specific problems of translating IFRS. The discussion is extended to include the approaches in different languages about whether or not to distinguish depreciation from amortisation and how to translate “impairment”. Implications for researchers and standard-setters are drawn. This includes the need for terms which are accurately defined and which have been chosen with an eye on potential translations problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-418
Number of pages12
JournalAccounting in Europe
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jul 2021


  • goodwill
  • translation
  • IFRS
  • international accounting
  • amortisation
  • impairment

Cite this