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“Emigrant” vs. “immigrant”
What's the difference in meaning between “emigrate” and “immigrate”?

I understand the immigrants refers to people coming into a country, and emigrants refers to those leaving, such as here:

The immigrants flooded into the United States.

The emigrants gather their meager belongings before boarding the ship in Liverpool.

Which word might I use in the following sentence:

The ____________ came from the Germany to the US.

Would I simply use whichever word I had used before (if it was one of more sentences) to avoid confusion?

  • 1
    -1 Question does not show research effort: where did you look before you posted your question?
    – MetaEd
    Aug 30 '12 at 21:52
  • You know, /ˈɪmɪgrənt/ and /ˈɛmɪgrənt/ are not homophones, so why does this have the homophones tag?
    – tchrist
    Aug 30 '12 at 21:56
  • @tchrist I wondered that (perhaps we should edit the tag out). However some other comments are a little unfair, I think. The OP knows the difference between the two words, but not which one to use when referring to both departure point and destination.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 30 '12 at 22:00

You use the verb came so you are speaking from the travellers' arrival point. That means that they are immigrants. However you may need to re-arrange the sentence in order that "immigrants" is close to "came to":

The immigrants came to the US from Germany.

Emigrants move from a place, as you noted.

The emigrants went from Germany to the US.


I would try to avoid being caught in that trap and write migrants.

  • I know I’m wrong in this, but I always think of migrants as periodic, going back and forth, like migrating swallows or migrant workers. I don’t think of them as permanent fixtures, but ones that oscillate periodically.
    – tchrist
    Aug 30 '12 at 22:33
  • @tchrist Yah, I thought of that while I was putting it down. Migrant workers (who'd really be better described as "nomadic") is probably to blame, because that's probably the only place most people encounter the word; in an academic context migrant would be perfectly acceptable. It depends really on where OP is going to use whatever term he settles on. Aug 30 '12 at 22:54

You would use immigrant.

An immigrant is an in-migrant, while an emigrant is an out-migrant.

Since you are using “came from”, the perspective is an in-bound one and so demands immigrant. An example of the other point of view would be “emigrants who left bound for a new land”.

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