This paper reviews contributions to permafrost isotope geochemistry published between 2007 and 2012 and proposes future research directions. It focuses on: (1) the origin and age of ground ice; (2) geochemistry and water movement in the active and transient layers; and (3) geochemistry and water movement in deep permafrost. The use of isotope geochemistry to study permafrost-related processes has grown significantly over the last few years. These processes have been elucidated by combining geochemical and isotope measurements from different components of permafrost. Such combination has yielded new insights, for example, into the water source and transfer processes that lead to the formation of ground ice, as well as groundwater movement and residence time in permafrost. Permafrost isotope geochemistry has a promising future and should provide valuable tools for the study of a rapidly changing permafrost environment. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.