"zukunftsweisend" means forward-looking, trend-setting, while "zukunftsorientiert" implies future-oriented.

I can more or less feel the difference: products of "zukunftsweisend" help actively shape the future; products of "zukunftsorientiert" simply means accomodating whatever could happen in the future (mostly passive). Is it correct?

In addition, what makes this issue more interesting is "zukunftsweisend" is of Partizip I, and "zukunftsorientiert" is of Partizip II. In English, we have similiar structure: interesting vs. interested. Why not use "zukunftsorientierend"?

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    > Is it correct? I agree with you. "Zukunftsorientiert" can simply be passive, while "-weisend" has an influence or is thought to have an influence. For the participles, that can be easily seen in its meaning. Participle 2 implies that current influence is done, while participle 1 describes a property of someone. Commented May 12, 2023 at 18:00

3 Answers 3


Your distinction and deduction for the difference is correct.

Why not 'zukunftsorientierend'? An attempt to explain or reason: You cannot orient the future (as a whole). You can try point or nudge it in a direction when it asks where it should go. While it thus may take your advice, it chooses it's own path, considering and weighing many inputs.


The verb weisen strongly demands a direction, and that is inherited by the adjective zukunftsweisend.

zukunftsweisend — Wohin weist es? In die Zukunft.

You could argue the same for the verb sich orientieren but it's not used that way. The usual adverbial that goes with it is who helps with the orientation. E.g. a map, the sun, a compass etc. Not a direction. Again, this property of the verb is inherited by the adjective zukunftsorientiert.

zukunftsorientiert — Woran orientiert es sich? An der Zukunft.

That one is built from the active Partizip I while the other is built from the passive Partizip II is a coincidence. Your proposed zukunftsorientierend makes little sense to me however because it would require that Zukunft is actively orientienting itself because the verb is reflexive.


The difference is due to the two different verbs from which the adjectives are derived: weisen and orientieren are two different actions.

"Etwas(1) an etwas(2) orientieren" (to orient something to(wards) something) means to set the direction or place of something(1) to align it with a direction or a position(2). It's a placement or movement, something is being moved or changing direction.

"Irgendwohin weisen", in contrast, is static, it means to point somewhere. A "Wegweiser" is a signpost that points in a certain direction, it has been oriented in that direction by someone in the know when it was put up, but its use now is to show a direction to people.

So something can be "zukunftsorientiert" which means it has been set to point toward the direction where someone thought the future lies, it has been oriented toward the future, thats why it's a Partizip II.

Or it can be "zukunftsweisend" which means it is showing people where the future might be, active, but static. That's why it's Partizip I.

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