So I know that, generally speaking, the prefix "im-" means "not" or "the opposite of" which is fine in words like immobile, impolite, impossible etc. However, while helping my wife with her uni work I came across an interesting one: immigrate.

My research into my original query (whether emigrate or immigrate was the correct term to use for her essay) brought me to an interesting point: the word immigrate, from the definitions I've read, means something along the lines of

to enter and usually become established; especially : to come into a country of which one is not a native for permanent residence

Taking away the prefix, you get migrate, which means

(of an animal, typically a bird or fish) move from one region or habitat to another according to the seasons.

Obviously in context this would mean a human moving from one place to another. My question is this: is the prefix still being used for negation in the word immigrate? Logic would dictate that the definition of it, given the definition of migrate, would be "not moving from one region or habitat to another" but isn't this exactly what you're technically doing when immigrating?

Is there another root/etymology for this word that differs from the usual im- words?

closed as off-topic by sumelic, John Clifford, Edwin Ashworth, ab2, jimm101 Mar 13 '16 at 2:47

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In this case, im- is a variation of in-. It gives the meaning of 'migrate in'. For a similar use of im-, compare with implosion.

  • This sounds plausible, but can you elaborate on it, give more details of when and how this change occurred, and support the assertion with references, or ideally direct quotes from some established etymology? Otherwise, you can leave this information in a comment under the question; I believe it is correct and helpful. – Dan Bron Mar 12 '16 at 15:35

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