AskDefine | Define intangible

Dictionary Definition

intangible adj
1 (of especially business assets) not having physical substance or intrinsic productive value; "intangible assets such as good will" [ant: tangible]
2 incapable of being perceived by the senses especially the sense of touch; "the intangible constituent of energy"- James Jeans [syn: impalpable] [ant: tangible]
3 hard to pin down or identify; "an intangible feeling of impending disaster"
4 lacking substance or reality; incapable of being touched or seen; "that intangible thing--the soul" [syn: nonphysical] n : assets that are saleable though not material or physical [syn: intangible asset]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. incapable of being perceived by the senses; incorporeal




  1. Anything intangible
  2. Incorporeal property that is saleable though not material, such as bank deposits, stocks, bonds, and promissory notes


Extensive Definition

See capital asset for intangibles issues that arise in accounting, including a more detailed sports example. See capital (economics) for issues that arise in economics, including a more detailed breakdown of types of assets.
Intangibles are generally regarded as pertaining to:
  • Customer good will, employee morale, increased bureaucracy, and aesthetic appeal (i.e. negative reaction to a billboard).
  • A colloquial expression for qualities in an individual or group of individuals, especially those organized in an official group (e.g. a sports team or office) which affect performance but are not readily observable. They are often cited as a reason for performance which is surprisingly better or worse than expected.
  • An expenditure of time on an activity by a person (such as leveraging know-how, knowledge, collaboration, relationships, systems, and process)
  • A defensible legal property right conferred by a Legal Act (copyright, trademarks, patents, designs, customer lists), or financial transactions (R&D, goodwill, intellectual capital)
Intangibles also have different meaning depending on the context:
  • In business, intangibles are commonly referred to as intangible assets or intellectual capital.
  • In law, legally created intangibles are referred to as intellectual property and include trademarks, patents, customer lists, and copyright.
  • In sports, intangibles typically refer to the value driver that differentiates one team's performance from another.
  • In government, intangibles typically refer to social capital and standard of living
  • In arts, intangibles commonly refer to the artists unique embodiment of substance and form.
  • In financial analysis, intangibles refer to the difference between the book value per share and the share price, or the firm's accounting value and its publicly traded market value (established through the Stock Market, or through mergers, acquisitions, etc).
  • In mathematics, intangibles are objects that can be proven to exist (usually, but not always, using the axiom of choice), but cannot be explicitly constructed. An example would be a Lebesgue-unmeasurable subset of the real numbers.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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