I am looking for advice from native speakers of English on the following question:

Is "newcomers" a possible and acceptable synonym for "new arrials" in the sense of people who have come just recently to a certain country, usually not for tourism or other sorts of temporary sojourns, rather for long-term accommodation (migrants, refugees, expats... however you want to call them).

Reason for the question: I have to write a lot about such people, and I want to use a neutral term perhaps semantically less unwieldy than"new arrivals", and easier to grasp for people who are not utterly fluent in English.1

I find "newcomer" listed even in some dictionaries with a meaning like that (e.g. as English word for German Neuankömmling), but I think I have never met it in use in, say, British or US American newspapers or scientific papers, so I am in doubt. My feeling is that newcomer relates to low level of expertise in some form of activity, not to some actual spatial arrival.

A sample sentence would be

In August 2018 we started a new project to offer literacy training for newcomers from Bulgaria.

Meaning: people who have come recently from Bulgaria to this country.

1) Newcomers to English, so to say.

  • 1
    I am a native English speaker and sometime resident of both Canada and the U.S. I have frequently been a “newcomer” in a community, sometimes after a change in province, state or country. To my mind, “newcomer” is a more neutral term than “new arrival”. I don’t know how it would be in a small country like the U.K., where ideas of time and space are different from those of the New World.
    – user205876
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 17:31
  • @GlobalCharm Thank you for that insight in real-life use-cases of newcomer etc. In your experience, what is the impression (look and feel, connotation) of new arrival then? Does it tend to carry something of "oh these annoying immigrants", or does it sound bureaucratic? (I suppose it is a bit bureaucratic, that's actually my first motivation for looking for an alternative...) Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 11:40
  • For people of a certain social class, or for anyone who has bettered their living conditions by moving, arriviste has a unique sting. Look at en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/arriviste and en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parvenu A term like new arrivals would be felt as dismissive, even insulting.
    – user205876
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 17:33

2 Answers 2


Is “newcomers” an acceptable synonym for “new arrivals” in a country?


a newcomer OED

A person who or thing which has newly come to a place, situation, etc.; a new or recent arrival;

As in:

In August we started a new project offering literacy training for/to newcomers from Bulgaria.

  • Thanks for the quick answer. - I find newcomer for somebody phyiscally arriving somwhere also in Longman's Dictionary of Contemporary English, but, as I said, my doubts are there because I have never met that word in that (unmetaphorical) use anywhere. - Regarding the link to OED: this, unfortunately, is of limited use as it requires a subscription at costs of 90 dollars annually... :-( Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 11:49

(Warning: I am not a native speaker)

I see no issue with using 'newcomer' to denote recent immigration. As you, I also associate the term with activities, but just as a job is a professional activity, I'd argue residence can be a form of societal activity.

Check out BYU corpora for a bunch of useful corpus databases, maybe you'll come across 'newcomer' used in a related context.

  • Thanks for the BYU link. This will be very useful for me henceforth. Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 17:08

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