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Emigrate and Immigrate

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between emigrate and immigrate?
  • Emigrate means to leave one country and settle in another.
  • (Emigrate focuses on the point of departure.)
  • Immigrate means to enter a new country with the purpose of staying there.
  • (Immigrate focuses on the point of arrival.)

Emigrate and Immigrate

To emigrate and to immigrate are similar in meaning, but there is a difference. To emigrate focuses on the point of departure, while to immigrate focuses on the point of arrival. For example:
  • I emigrated to England in the 1990s.
  • ("I left my homeland in the 1990s.")
  • I immigrated to England in the 1990s.
  • ("I've been living in England since the 1990s.")

Emigrate

The verb to emigrate focuses on leaving your home country to move permanently to another.

Examples:
  • People say there's no quality of life in Russia, and everyone wants to emigrate.
  • Very few inhabitants emigrate from this province, where the birth-rate considerably exceeds the death-rate.
  • It is foolish to claim, as some do, that emigration into space offers a long-term escape from Earth's problems. Nowhere in our solar system offers an environment even as clement as the Antarctic or the top of Everest. (Martin Rees)
  • (Emigration is the noun from the verb to emigrate.)

Immigrate

The verb to immigrate means to move to a new country with the purpose of settling there. Immigrate focuses on entering the new country.

Examples:
  • New Zealanders who immigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries. (Robert Muldoon)
  • Immigration is one of the leading contributors to population growth. (Paul Watson)
  • (Immigration is the noun from the verb to immigrate.)
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Top Tip

Remember Emigrate and Immigrate

With emigrate think exit or export.
With immigrate think in or import.

Emigrate and Immigrate Are Often Interchangeable

The words emigrate and immigrate are often interchangeable. For example:
  • Sarah emigrated to England from Australia.
  • (This focuses on Sarah leaving Australia.)
  • Sarah immigrated to England from Australia.
  • (This focuses on Sarah arriving in England and, without further context, suggests the speaker is located in England.)