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1 min read
Amanda Miller
June 16, 2023
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1 min read

The difference between "emigrate," "immigrate," and "migrate"

Exploring “emigrate,” “immigrate,” and “migrate,” this guide simplifies these terms by distinguishing their unique contexts in movement: departure, arrival, and the journey itself.
The difference between "emigrate," "immigrate," and "migrate"

The difference between "emigrate," "immigrate," and "migrate"

Are you feeling adventurous and thinking about moving to another country? Well, if you're planning to leave your country to live in a new one, that's called "emigrating". On the other hand, "to immigrate" means to come to another country to live there permanently. "To migrate" means to set out from one place to settle in another, like birds in winter.

"Emigrate," "immigrate," and "migrate" all come from the Latin verb "migrare," which means to move from one place to another. The choice between "emigrate," "immigrate," and "migrate" depends on the point of view within the sentence.

"Emigrate" refers to the departure, while "immigrate" refers to the arrival. If the sentence is focused on the point of departure, use "emigrate." If it centers on the destination, use "immigrate." And if it's just about the actual process of moving from one point to another, use "migrate."

Emigrate vs immigrate

"To emigrate" means to leave one's current home country:

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

"To immigrate" means to come to a country to live:

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

Friends carrying couch up the stairs

Migrate: the process of moving

"To migrate" means to move, similar to how monarch butterflies fly from Canada to Mexico and back. It doesn't have to be a permanent move, but "migrate" implies more than just going away for a weekend, and that doesn’t just apply to butterflies. Snowbirds are people who move south for the winter and return north after the snow melts, or someone who moves 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)



  • "Emigrate" is about the departure point. An emigrant leaves a place.
  • "Immigrate" is about the destination. An immigrant arrives somewhere new.
  • "Migrate" is about the move itself. A migrant moves from place to place.