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What's the difference between emigrate and immigrate? They seem to have the same definitions in the dictionary but they are antonyms...

 

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Related: Emigrant and immigrant. –  RegDwigнt Mar 18 '11 at 11:54
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@JFW: Not to be pushy, but in case you forgot about this question: there's a good answer here, and you haven't yet accepted. Thanks for looking! –  Daniel Sep 8 '11 at 20:06
    
Sorry! Fixed the problem now. :) –  JFW Sep 10 '11 at 13:07
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8 Answers 8

up vote 50 down vote accepted

The difference is fairly subtle

  • To Emigrate is to leave one country to settle in another. (The focus is on the original country)
  • To Immigrate is to come to a new country to live. (The focus is on the new country)

So if I were born in Ireland, and then migrated to the US, all of the below would be true and grammatical:

I emigrated from Ireland.

I immigrated to the US.

(Now the tricky bits)

I emigrated from Ireland to the US. (This focuses on the leaving bit)

I immigrated to the US from Ireland. (This focuses on the arriving bit)

And finally, relatives in Ireland might say:

Dusty emigrated to the US last year. (from their perspective, I left)

While new friends in the US:

Dusty immigrated to the US last year. (from their perspective, I arrived)

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Good answer Dusty, you get a +1 ! –  n0nChun Mar 18 '11 at 7:47
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+1 great explanation –  Richa Mar 18 '11 at 9:52
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I wouldn't describe the difference between emigrate and immigrate as "fairly subtle". One is coming and the other is going. Yes, it's motion, but direction is critical. You provided great examples though. –  Evik James Mar 18 '11 at 19:19
    
totally awesome and an easy , simple to understand solution. great going, please keep it up –  sqlchild Mar 19 '11 at 6:30
    
It's not obvious to me why your new friends would bother saying to the US at all. In my understanding people wouldn't normally use the word unless they were in the country you emigrated to, so it's a pretty pointless addition to the verbiage. There are plenty of instances of immigrated from, and they don't bother saying where you've ended up. I admit it - I just don't like the word. It makes a pointless distinction. –  FumbleFingers Sep 22 '11 at 3:31
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To emigrate is to leave here and move to another country.

To immigrate is to leave another country and move to here.

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The "e" in emigrate is short for "ex", which means "out". You see it in words like exit (to leave), expire (out of breath >> out of time >> death), exterminate (to drive out).

The "im" in immigrate is a variant of "in", which means in. You see it in words like internal (inside), insinuate (to curve in), input (that which is put in).

This "in" should not be confused with the other "in" which means "not", used in such words as indiscriminate, incapable, and insatiable.

So, to emigrate means to exit a location. To immigrate means to come into a location.

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Glad you wrote this, since this is how I remember 'immigrate' and 'emigrate'. I'll add that the source language for the "in-" prefix is Latin, and both Latin and Greek supply the meaning for the "ex-" prefix. (Corrections welcome if there is a Gk. source for "in-" as well, etc..) –  jbelacqua Mar 18 '11 at 15:12
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Similarly, egress and ingress. –  Jay Bazuzi Sep 15 '11 at 17:56
    
@Jay, you couldn't have given a better example. Thanks! –  Evik James Sep 15 '11 at 19:26
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The NOAD contains the following note about emigrate.

To emigrate is to leave a country, especially one's own, intending to remain away. To immigrate is to enter a country, intending to remain there: my aunt emigrated from Poland and immigrated to Canada.

The OED reports that immigrate is chiefly North American.

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If immigrate is chiefly NA, what do people say elsewhere for 'to move to here (from another country)'? –  Mitch Mar 18 '11 at 16:31
    
@Mitch: mostly move here. –  TimLymington Jan 31 at 10:27
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Emigrate means leaving a country, immigrate means entering a country. Like "exhale" versus "inhale".

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Immigration and emigration have to do with humans migrating between two countries. The use depends on which country we are referring to.

With respect to the US, people who leave the country are emigrants. People who move here are immigrants.

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In my experience, as an Indian ex-pat living and working in the UK:

If you're white-skinned and you move to another country you're said to have emigrated. If you're not white-skinned and you move to another country you're an immigrant.

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Emigration & immigration are almost equal to product movement internationally:

Export: leaving this country and go to another country — emigration

Import: Leaving another country & arriving in to this country — immigration

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