What Is The Difference Between “Immigration” vs. “Emigration”?

WATCH: What Is The Difference Between "Immigration" And "Emigration"?

Sometimes you’ll see the terms being used interchangeably, but it’s important to understand what these words mean so you can use them correctly.

Who are immigrants and what is immigration?

An immigrant is “a person who has moved to another country, usually for permanent residence.” Immigration is “the act of immigrating, or the act of moving to another country.”

The key to remembering what this word means is its prefix, im-. Im- comes from the Latin word for in, which reflects the fact that an immigrant is one who comes into a new country.

Who are emigrants and what is emigration?

An emigrant, on the other hand, is “someone who leaves a country or region.” Emigration is “an act or instance of emigrating.”

Its prefix, e-, also comes from Latin and means “out of.” So, an emigrant is someone who is moving out of a country.

Fun fact: The same person can be both an immigrant and an emigrant. For example, “When Robert moved from London to New York, he was an emigrant from London and an immigrant to New York.” Note how the preposition changes depending on the word being used. An immigrant goes to somewhere, while an emigrant goes from somewhere.

What is a migrant?

The word migrant is related to the root of both immigrant and emigrant, and it, too comes from Latin. The Latin word migrāre means to move from place to place. It’s produced words like migrant and migrate. You might use migrant when you’re referring to people who are settling in a new place but don’t want to call attention to where they came from or where they’re going.

A migrant isn’t necessarily settling in a new place permanently. For instance, snowbirds who live in New England but relocate temporarily to Florida in the winter are sometimes said to migrate. Animals like geese or butterflies are also migrants when they head south for the winter.

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