Going somewhere? Emigrate means to leave one’s country to live in another. Immigrate is to come into another country to live permanently. Migrate is to move, like bird in the winter.



If you move to a different country, you emigrate. For example, if you are Canadian and you emigrateto Italy, you aren’t on vacation — you are making Italy your new home. Benvenuti!

The verb emigrate comes from the Latin word emigrare, which means “move away,” or “depart from a place.” The words emigrate and immigrate both mean that a person has decided to permanently live in a foreign country, but to emigrate is to leave your country, and to immigrate is to come into a new country. To emigrate is to exit.


When a person immigrates, he or she moves to a new country. During the great wave of immigration between 1880 and 1924, over 25 million Europeansimmigrated to the United States.

Many immigrants make significant contributions to their adopted countries. Consider Albert Einstein, the greatest physicist of the twentieth century, who immigrated to America from Germany, or the Russian-born New Yorker Irving Berlin, who wrote some of the most popular songs in the American songbook, including “White Christmas” and “God Bless America.” The word immigratecomes from the Latin imigrare, which means “to move in.”


To migrate means to move from one place to another, sometimes part of a back-and-forth pattern, and sometimes to stay.

When we think of the word migrate we think of movement from place to place. Sometimes that movement is seasonal, as when birds migrate north in summer and south in winter. But sometimes a person or group will migrate from one place to another with the intention of settling there. In both cases, there is a definite shift in locales, one temporary, the other permanent.

The choice between emigrate,immigrate, and migrate depends on the sentence’s point of view. Emigrate is to immigrate as go is to come. If the sentence is looking at the point of departure, use emigrate. The point of arrival? Immigrate. Talking about the actual process of moving? Use migrate.

Emigrate means you are exiting your current homeland:

People are always saying there’s no quality of life in Russia, and everyone wants to emigrate,” he said. (New York Times)

Immigrate means you are coming in to a country to live:

Citizens from 17 European Union countries were given freedom to immigrateto Switzerland in 2007. (Business Week)

Migrate means to move, like those crazy Monarch butterflies that migrate from Canada to Mexico and back. It doesn’t have to be a permanent move, but migrate is more than a weekend away, and it’s not just for butterflies. “Snowbirds” are people who migrate south for the winter and come back north when the snow melts, or someone might migrate to another part of the country for work or to be closer to family. Here are some examples:

Nevertheless, it has often been assumed that dinosaurs did migrate.(Scientific American)

People are prepared to travel and migrate within America. (Business Week)

If you have ants in your pants and you have to move, remember:

Emigrate is from the point of view of the departure. Think exit.

Immigrate is from the point of view of the destination. Think come in.

Migrate is all about the moving. Think move.

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