Word of the Day – “die Zukunft”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a quick look at the meaning of:

die Zukunft


Die Zukunft is the German word for the future and that’s definitely something to talk about. Like…. there’s been quite some hype about it, nicely captured by this quote from a BuzzFeed article…

… and while Present is still around and accepted, Past is totally last season.  Today, designers all around the world agree that Future is up and coming and will be the next big thing.

But of course we’re not here to talk about the actual future.
And we’re also not here to talk about the future tense.
We’re here to learn about the WORD future.
Because that has WAY more to offer than you’d expect.

But we’ll start with the word future itself.
You see, in English, there are all kinds of tenses or modes….

  • I go, I went, I am going, I would have been going, I will have gone,  I had gone….

And as you can see, most of them are expressed by combining forms of verbs.
Well, Latin had the same tenses and modes – more even. But in Latin, each of these had its own form of the verb. So in Latin it was more like this :

  • I go, I went, I gone, I gotilus, I golem, I gotiluminariumanus* ….
*Disclaimer: endings have been dramatized, may differ
 from actual endings

And the Latin word futurus is actually one of those forms – the so called suppletive future participle – of the verb esse which simply meant: to be.
And yes… it’s quite a crazy form. But those of you who speak Spanish might recognize it.
Anyway, so the word future originally was just a future form of the Latin verb for to be.

And the German Zukunft is actually also a form of to be.
Nah… okay, I’m kidding.
But it is indeed a form of a verb. So are you ready for a nice little reveal?

Kunft comes from kommen.

So the word Zukunft means nothing other than:  the “to come”.
Hehe.. so obvious and yet so hidden :).
And there’s more.
Kunft isn’t used as a standalone anymore, but it is part of a number of really nice compound nouns.
If you have ever been on a train station or an airport in Germany you have certainly seen Ankunft (arrival).
ell… it’s the noun for ankommen, which means to arrive. Wow, things make sense :).
Another nice one is die Auskunft. Auskunft is basically a bit of  information someone gives you but a while back it had a more general sense of the result or the yield – or in verb terms, that which comes out.

Of course, we can also not forget the German word for origin, die Herkunft. That makes perfect sense now as well. All we need is this sentence :)

  • Wo kommst du her?
  • Where do you come from?

And there is the word Unterkunft which is basically a place to stay … like a hostel or a hut or a friends couch. And it comes from unterkommen as in “come under (some roof maybe)”.

I’ll just list the others here with translations and leave it up to you to draw the connection…some are obvious, some are really not making much sense:

Einkünfte (plural) – income/earnings
Zusammenkunft – get together/meeting (somewhat dated)
Übereinkunft – agreement
Niederkunft – birth/accouchement

But now let’s get back to our “to come”,  die Zukunft,  and look at a few examples for that.
First, let’s compare in der Zukunft and in Zukunft. Both could be translated as in the future but they have slightly different meanings. In Zukunft basically starts now while in der Zukunft really means in the future as in “when cars can fly”.

  • In Zukunft passe ich besser auf.
  • From now on, I’ll pay more attention.
  • In der Zukunft leben vielleicht Menschen auf dem Mond.
  • There maybe people living on the moon in the future.

A third similar looking expression is in Zugluft….

  • In Zugluft kriegt man leicht eine Erkältung.
  • In draft/draught you can easily catch a cold.

but this has NOTHING to do with Zukunft and uh…. I….I don’t even know why I menti… just forget it. All right.
There is also an adjective for future … no I don’t mean futuristic. That would be just futuristisch. What I mean is zukünftig and it is translated to.. future.

  • Maries zukünftiger Ehemann heißt Thomas.
  • Marie’s future husband is called Thomas.

This can be also used as a word for time… then it is just another way to say in the future.

  • Wir bitte die Mieter, zukünftig darauf zu achten, die Tür zum Hof geschlossen zu halten.
  • We ask the tenants to pay attention from now on/in the future that the door to the courtyard is closed.

But zukünftig sounds rather formal and I’d say, don’t use it in spoken German. A shortened form of it is künftig, but also this one … well… leave it for the newspapers.
Oh…. speaking of newspapers….there is also a verb … zukunften.

  • In dem neuen Film von Ridley Scott zukunftet es sehr.
  • It “futures” /is very futury/is a lot of future in the new Ridley Scott movie.

Ok…. this is actually not a real word. But maybe some movie critic or theater critic or book critic has used it in a review in a newspaper somewhere… they do these things a lot in the so called “Feuilleton”. People will definitely understand what you mean by “Es zukunftet“. How can I be so sure? Well, there is a famous Christmas carol in which it says:

  • Es weihnachtet sehr.
  • I is christmassing a lot (lit.)

And everyone knows this so they know the pattern if you will ….so…. if someone comes up to you with a new phone that has all kinds of cool functions you could just say

  • “ohhhhh… mann mann mann, das zukunftet aber ganz schön…”

They will be sooooo impressed :).

All right. So we’re done here. This was our German word of the Day die Zukunft. It looks weird but it is actually just the old school translation of to come. If you want a mini recap, you can take the little quiz I have prepared. And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.

… oh…. you’re still here… What?… Oh… ohhhh, you want to know how to use and build the German future tense?
Well…. don’t bother. We really honestly almost never use it. No future… we’re all punks.


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2 months ago

Das war richtig Klasse sehr hilfreich, verstehen die Herkunft von Nomen macht es sehr Stabil. Exercises sind auch prima. Total verrückt

11 months ago

In spanish you can also use “por venir” to say future or wellbeing, which literally means “to come.”

Francisco Souza
Francisco Souza
2 years ago

I imagined the same thing so I came here to check why Zukunftlooks like TO COME when you hear the word and I was right. In portuguese se use the word FUTURO, but sometimes we say things like O que está POR VIR (TO COME).

4 years ago

wirklich vielen Dank. Sehr nützliches Blog.
I have just two questions :
1) I heard in Austria in Hinkunft instead of in Zukunft. Is it only Austrian expression or one can hear it also in Germany?
2) Is there any difference between die Abkunft und die Herkunft?

Thanks a lot

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Another typo: wir bitten

5 years ago

Vielen danke. That was a very useful description of kunft derivations. Just one thing though, auskunft could be translated as “outcome” which would make more sense to to Anglo-Saxon ears than “to come out” ;)

5 years ago

Thank you so much ☺️

7 years ago

Where you said “vield”, did you mean to say “yield”?

8 years ago

I was looking for the etymology of “Gegenwart” (present) which for some reason in my mind would be something like “gegen”+”warten” so against-waiting or something like that. Which I found funny and helped me remember the word.
Anyhow I found your blog and I just started following as I found it really interesting :) Even if I already knew the etymology of Zukunft, I loved the rest of the article.

Thanks for the info !

9 years ago

I think most people here are more advanced than I am in studying German. But I want to share this anyway because I am just learning German and was having trouble with the gender words. Which, as you know, affect a lot of the grammar. If you don’t know it’s der or die, you don’t know it’s dem or der. Et cetera. Here’s a trick I just learned (and wish I had learned when I was 13 studying Spanish): Every time you learn a noun, they say, learn the gender (el, la in Spanish; le, la, in French; der, die, das in German). Easier said than done. Until now. For German, pick one male person, one female person and something neutral, like your house. Now associate that object with that person. My dad is drinking coffee, that’s der Kaffee. My niece is holding a flower, that’s die Blume. I picture a window in my house, that’s das Fenster. It is amazing how much easier that makes it to remember. You’re welcome.

9 years ago

Thanks very much for these hilfreichen informationen , I’ve got to know that the Deutschsprache nie unlogisch zu sein scheint .

please tell me if these sentence I wrote auf Deutsch right or falsch

9 years ago

Ganz interessant wie immer! Gruss aus London

9 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

viellecht du kannst uns eine Lektion ueber (??) das deutsche Fussballfanwortschatz geben? Der Referee ist ein…

9 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Arschloch – natuerlich…. your link is good and we love the Goethe Institite but to get that kind of detail this is the place.

9 years ago

Hi! I love hearing about all the etymology. Danke sehr.

Amr Boghdady
9 years ago

Wow, I’m glad I stumbled across your blog again :) I remember visiting more than a year ago, but never thought you were still updating it!
I’ve bookmarked it this time, so I’ll definitely be visiting more often now. Kudos for having such detailed lessons!

9 years ago

Thank you for sharing it’s helpful! :)
I really like the An/Aus/Her/whatever + kunft derivations. They all now make sense. Haha.

9 years ago

You make is so easy to smile while we learn.
Tschüß! (which I think means, “Later, man!”)