Most dictionaries give the meaning "Economy" for the word "Wirtschaft" (and "Economical science" for the word "Wirtschaftswissenschaft").

In English speaking universities we have two separate fields namely "Business Management" and "Economics" (which cover totally different topics). But in German speaking universities they both seem to be referred as "Wirtschaftswissenschaft" (possibly with BWL and VWL branches?).

So what is the difference between the words "Wirtschaftswissenschaft" and "Ökonomie" ? Is the first one equal to "Management" and the second one equal to the "Economical science"?


5 Answers 5


To prevent misunderstanding, 'Ökonomie' is rather used for economy than for economics, 'Wirtschaftswissenschaft' (synonym to 'Volkwirtschaftslehre', sometimes also 'Ökonomik') means economics, while the plural 'Wirtschaftswissenschaften' at universities regularly mean a combination of 'Betriebswirtschaftslehre (BWL)' - business management and 'Volkswirtschaftslehre (VWL)'.


If you look up both words in Duden, you'll find:

  • Wirtschaftswissenschaft:

    Wissenschaft, die sich (als Betriebs-, Volkswirtschaftslehre, Finanzwissenschaft) mit der Wirtschaft beschäftigt

  • Ökonomie:

    Wirtschaftswissenschaft, -theorie

But Ökonomie does also mean

Wirtschaft, wirtschaftliche Struktur (eines bestimmten Gebiets)

which does translate to "economy".


“Wirtschaftswissenschaft” is one of many words that were invented in the 19th or 20th century as a substitute for an established Greek or Latin borrowing, in this case for “Ökonomie”. Basically in the same category as “Fernsprecher” as a replacement for “Telefon”. The meaning is in either case the same.


You normally would say Wirtschaftswissenschaft but Ökonomie is also possible. They have the same meaning. But Ökonomie is a bit old-fashioned. A better one would be Ökonomik.

If you want to begin studying, you can chose between BWL and VWL. Both are subcategories of Wirtschaftswissenschaft. In colloquial speech people often use BWL as a synonym to Wirtschaftswissenschaft.

If you want to call a economist, you can say Ökonom. It’s more often used than Wirtschaftswissenschaftler.

See also Wikipedia:

Die Wirtschaftswissenschaft, auch Ökonomik und veraltend Ökonomie, ist die Wissenschaft von der Wirtschaft (Ökonomie). Die Wirtschaftswissenschaft untersucht den rationalen Umgang mit Gütern, die nur beschränkt verfügbar sind.


In German, Ökonomie can mean both the thing ("economy") and the science about the thing ("economical science") - Just like "Mathematics". Additionally, the efficient usage of resources can also be referred to with Ökonomie

Wirtschaftswissenschaft obviously only refers to the science, in this respect, it is used synonymously to Ökonomie (but this can be considered aging).

Im Interesse der Ökonomie bitten wir darum, die Fenster in klimatisierten Räumen stets geschlossen zu halten

Die Regierung ergriff Maßnahmen, um die Ökonomie des Landes zu stützen

Ökonomie ist ein wichtiges Fach für Betriebswirtschaftler

An outdated usage for Ökonomie also used to simply refer to an agricultural enterprise, i.e. a large Farm.

  • Ich denke, dass der Vergleich zur Mathematik die Sache ein bisschen veunklart. Denn die Mathematik hat ja keinen außerhalb ihrer selbst liegenden Gegenstand. Jun 25, 2017 at 22:10
  • @jonathan.scholbach Mathematik bezeichnet genauso eine Wissenschaft wie die Tätigkeit - man denke nur an einen Versicherungsmathematiker
    – tofro
    Jun 25, 2017 at 22:13

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