Grammar Chaos: Get the Job Done—What Makes an Emigrant Different from an Immigrant?

Posted on Mar 29, 2017


The words emigrant and immigrant are one of the most interchangeable word pairs in the English language. Not only that, they tend to get misspelled a lot too.

emigrant - immigrant at

Both words are nouns derived from the verbs emigrate and immigrate. Emigrate and Immigrate have close meanings. This is because they have the same root word, migrate. Migrate means “to move.” The addition of the prefixes differentiates the point of view. There is one feature that distinguishes migrate from emigrate/immigrate. Migrate can imply simply moving across a great distance. When adding any of the prefixes, it immediately implies moving out of/into a country.


To emigrate means to leave one’s country and move to another. If Amelia was born and raised in London but left and moved to New York, that means she emigrated out of the United Kingdom.


Conversely, to immigrate is to come and move into a different country. If Amelia moved out of London to live in New York, then she immigrated into the United States.


Both words are of Latin origin: emigratus and immigratus. The first means “moving away,” and the second means “moving into.” By knowing their prefixes, you’ll also be able to remember how to spell the words correctly. The prefix e- means “out of” or “out from.” The prefix im- means “in” or “into.” So, e + migrate = emigrate, and im + migrate = immigrate.


Here’s another example to illustrate their differences in terms of point of view.


  The Chesterton family left Glasgow and settled in Toronto in 1995.


From the point of view of someone in Glasgow, the Chestertons emigrated from Scotland. From the point of view of someone in Toronto, the Chestertons immigrated into Canada.


To sum it up, an emigrant is someone who leaves, and immigrant is someone who arrives. You immigrate into somewhere, and you emigrate from somewhere.


English can be confusing, but everything becomes a whole lot easier with a little effort and help. Got questions? Is something about English still bothering you? Watch out for more chaotic conundrums on our next Grammar Chaos blog!




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