Immigrate vs Emigrate – Pick The Correct Word

Most of us are pretty familiar with the word immigrate; but what does emigrate mean? And how are these words related? This article will help you determine how and when to use emigrate or immigrate.

Short and Sweet: Immigrate vs Emigrate

Immigrate and emigrate are both verbs that have to do with people relocating.

  • Immigrate means to move to a new place.
  • Emigrate means to leave an old residence.

The main difference between these verbs is how the sentence in which they are used is structured, and the preposition that follows. People emigrate from somewhere, and immigrate to somewhere else.

What Does Immigrate Mean?

Meaning of Immigrate: The definition of immigrate is to come to a new region and take up residence. When using the word immigration, the move that is being refered to is considered to be permanent. If one travels to a different country, even for a long period time, with the intent to return home, this is not immigration. To immigrate means to relocate from one’s native home to a foreign place with the intent to establish a new residency.

For example,

  • My parents are Irish immigrants who moved here 30 years ago.
  • She grew up in Bangladesh before immigrating to India for work.

While immigration very frequently refers to moving from one country to another, this is not necessarily always the case. It is acceptable to use immigrate to mean moving from one region to another within the same country. In such cases, however, migrate is much more common and preferred.

What Does Emigrate Mean?

Meaning of Emigrate: The meaning of emigrate is quite similar to the meaning of immigrate. The difference is in how each verb is used.

  • To emigrate is to leave one’s place of origin.
  • To immigrate is to arrive to a new place.

To clarify, emigrate means to leave while immigrate means to arrive.

If you move to a new country, you are emigrating and immigrating at the same time, depending on the perspective. The verb you use depends on whether you are talking about where you are coming from or where you are going to.

For example,

  • She emigrated from Russia to Ukraine.
  • She immigrated to Ukraine from Russia.

The root verb of both immigrate and emigrate is migrate, which has a neutral meaning. To migrate is simply to move from one region to another.

All three words are closely related, so pay attention to where the verb is placed in the sentence and whether the verb refers to the place of origin or the destination.

Immigrate vs Emigrate: How to Remember the Difference

With such a subtle difference, how can you remember whether to use immigrate or emigrate?

Emigrate begins with an “E.” Think of the “E” as standing for exit. When someone emigrates, he or she is leaving their home and exiting that country.

Conversely, immigrate begins with an “I.” The “I” can stand for into or incoming. To immigrate is to move into a new country, where you will be an incoming citizen.

Recap: When to Use Immigrate and Emigrate

Use immigrate when speaking about someone who is arriving at their destination to set up a new home. Immigrate should be followed by the preposition to.

Use emigrate when speaking about someone leaving their native residence. Emigrate should be followed by the preposition from.

Both verbs come from migrate, which means to move from one place to another, and can be followed by to or from in a sentence.