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“Emigrate” vs. “Immigrate”: What’s the Difference?

“Emigrate” vs. “Immigrate”: What’s the Difference?

Emigrate and immigrate—with a difference of just a few letters and similar meanings, it’s easy to get confused between the two.

Emigrate means to leave one’s country, while immigrate means to come to a foreign country.

Here are some tips and examples to remember the subtle differences between the two terms, along with a handy quiz to test your usage.

“Emigrate”: Definition and examples

To emigrate, or the act of emigrating, involves a person leaving their home country in order to move to another country. It stems from the Latin word emigrare, which means to “move away” or “depart from a place.” The noun for a person emigrating is emigrant.

The key connecting word to remember here is “from”—a person emigrates from their original place of residence to a new place of residence.

Here are some examples of emigrate in a sentence:

  • The number of British nationals emigrating from the UK to other countries in the EU has risen since Brexit.

  • Political turmoil has forced many citizens to emigrate from their home countries.

“Immigrate”: Definition and examples

While emigrate places the emphasis on the country a person is leaving, immigrate focuses on the new country that the person is moving to.

Immigrating is the act of establishing oneself in a new country, usually where one is not a native or former resident. The term’s roots lie in the Latin word immigrare, meaning “to remove, go into,” or “move in.” The name for a person immigrating is an immigrant.

Here are some examples of immigrate in a sentence:

  • “Irina Zaretti, who immigrated to New York in 1954, celebrates 100th Birthday With family, friends on Long Island.”—CBS New York, 17 July 2020

  • The decision to immigrate to a new country can impact all the aspects of one's life, from work to family, to personal well-being.

"Emigrate" or "immigrate": A little trick to remember the difference between the two

There’s a simple trick when it comes to remembering whether emigrate or immigrate is the correct term to use in your writing. It all comes down to the first letter of each word:

Emigrate starts with an “e” like ex. Think of the country you are emigrating from as your “ex home”. Just like an ex partner, it’s the one you chose to leave behind.

Immigrate starts with an “i” like in. When you immigrate, you are actively moving into a new place of residence. This is the new country you live in and call your home.

“Emigrate”’ and “immigrate” in practice

The easiest way to remember the difference between these two terms is by relating them to a personal story. I immediately think of my dad, who was born in Romania, but left his native country to become an American citizen in his thirties. When asking him for the difference between the two terms growing up, this is how he defined them to me:

He emigrated from Romania to the United States, and immigrated to the United States from Romania.

Take a little practice quiz: “Emigrate” vs. “Immigrate”

Think you’re ready to tell the difference between emigrate and immigrate? Fill in the blanks in the story below and test your skills.

  1. Ivan is an American citizen who is originally from Romania. In 1985, he decided to __________ from Romania to the United States when he met the love of his life. (immigrate/emigrate)

  2. It was not easy for him to be an ________ in the United States. He had to get used to a new culture and way of life, but he found his way and raised a beautiful family. (immigrant/emigrant)

  3. Later, his daughter followed in his footsteps by ________ to Israel to marry her husband. (immigrating/emigrating)

Quiz answers: 1) emigrate 2) immigrant 3) immigrating

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Michelle Klein, ADI Content Writer at Wix

Michelle Klein, ADI Content Writer at Wix

Quiet voice, loud imagination. This ex-ballerina loves Neapolitan style pizza, exploring European cities, and her dog, Basil. And don’t get her started on chocolate.

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