I have looked up the word 'immigrant': the definition refers to people who come to live in a different country. Can I also use this word to refer to people who move from rural areas to the city?

2 Answers 2


No, immigrants isn't normally used for people who move within the same country from rural to urban areas. But such people are often called [economic] migrants, or more specifically...

Rural migrants are attracted by the possibilities that cities can offer, but often settle in shanty towns and experience extreme poverty. (source: Wikipedia article on urbanisation).

The relevant OED definition is...

migrant: A person who moves permanently to live in a new country, town, etc., esp. to look for work, or to take up a post, etc.; an immigrant. (italics mine)

I interpret the last two words of the definition as meaning immigrants are one kind of migrants (specifically, the kind that move to a different country).

  • "The Great Migration" (1915 -1960) of Southern blacks to Northern cities in the U.S. is one example of a big movement of people from rural to urban areas. blackpast.org/aah/great-migration-1915-1960 I generally think of migrants as part of a larger movement of people, e.g. "migrant workers".
    – user227547
    May 29, 2017 at 19:28

No, it's not really appropriate for that context. The word immigrant formally means, as you said:

a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence

Someone who simply moves between locations within the same country relocates rather than immigrates. I'm having trouble finding a good noun to describe someone who specifically moves from the country to the city, however. The process as a whole is called urbanization.

  • Jeff, so "urbanization" and "deruralization" mean the same thing?
    – user19148
    Jul 6, 2013 at 6:11

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