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November 23, 2022

There Apparently Is a Petition Circulating Online to Add Three Words to the Definition of ‘Accountant’

Most of you guys probably use Webster’s Dictionary like I do for all your spelling and word definition needs. But just in case some of you use the Oxford English Dictionary, there’s a crusade underway in the U.K. to change how the word “accountant” is defined.

Why? Because Xero U.K. thinks the Oxford English definition of “accountant” is woefully outdated, and the cloud accounting software company is urging accountants to sign an online petition so it can be updated.

But we’re not talking about some major rewrite of the definition. Nope, we’re talking about the addition of three words which, according to Xero, will “shake off the ‘archaic’ perception of the industry and reflect how much the role of an accountant has changed in the last two decades.”

Here’s the current definition of “accountant” in the Oxford English Dictionary:

A person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts.

And here’s the revision Xero wants Oxford English Dictionary to make to the definition (changes in bold):

A person whose job is to keep or inspect and advise on financial accounts.

Is this … better? Does this really define an accountant in 2019? If not, what do you think is missing?

Any of these better, you think?








Gary Turner, co-founder and managing director of Xero U.K., wrote the following open letter to Oxford English Dictionary’s bigwigs about why the definition of “accountant” should be changed:

Dear adjudicators,

As one of the most reliable and respected sources for true definitions in the world, we at Xero are writing to request you Oxford English Dictionary change the definition of the word ‘accountant’ in your dictionary to what we believe it truly reflects

This is why we think the definition of the word ‘accountant’ needs to be updated:

The role of an accountant is far removed from what it once was. The adoption of new technologies such as cloud software and new regulations such as Open Banking are rapidly transforming business finance.

At Xero we are seeing an increasing number of practices embracing cloud technology. By using AI to their advantage, accountants are able to offer useful insights by analysing operational and financial data stored in the cloud. This enables them to establish areas where they could drive growth across different product lines, and work out how scenario planning (such as changing suppliers) will impact the bottom line.

Today, an accountant doesn’t just crunch the numbers and observe financial operations, but so much more. They advise business owners and aid and fuel business objectives such as business growth, improving efficiency, cost and productivity.

Insight from well-respected industry bodies such as ICAEW and IFAC finds that time and time again, accountants are a business owner’s most trusted advisor. We also know that accountants and bookkeepers are vital to the UK’s stability. Nearly two in three (65%) accountants believe that their jobs are having a major impact on the economy.

Furthermore, when asked about the qualities they value in an accountant, more small business owners cited good business advice (41%) than number crunching skills (34%).

We understand that the OED shows how words and meanings change over time.  We have witnessed this first hand from our viewpoint at the front lines of this industrial change and through working with thousands of progressive modern day accountants. As the leading provider of accounting software to small businesses, around the world we are helping hundreds of thousands of accountants realise this new ambition.

Our suggestion for the updated definition is as follows: “Accountant: a person whose job is to keep or inspect and advise on financial accounts”.

We await your response.


Gary Turner, Co-founder and Managing Director at Xero.

Xero is hoping to get 20,000 people to sign the petition; right now, only 255 people have.

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