What's the difference between emigrate and immigrate? They seem to have the same definitions in the dictionary but they are antonyms...
The difference is fairly subtle
So if I were born in Ireland, and then migrated to the US, all of the following 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)
To emigrate is to leave here and move to another country.
To immigrate is to leave another country and move to here.
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.
Emigrate means leaving a country, immigrate means entering a country. Like "exhale" versus "inhale".
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.
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.
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.
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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