Jun 17, 2022

The Difference between Emigrate and Immigrate

June 17, 2022

Many of my ancestors and their families arrived in the United States during the mid-19th through the mid-20th century. This means that whenever I discuss them or write about them, I mentions that they were immigrants. Or maybe they were emigrants?


Because I use the words infrequently, I tend to get confused and worry that I’m using the terms incorrectly. Today I looked up the words in the dictionary. I was confident that I was the using the words correctly, but I wanted to make sure.


The difference between the words is simple. Immigrants enter and settle in a new country permanently. For example, “My grandmother immigrated to the United States and became an immigrant there.” Emigrants, on the other hand, leave their home country and go to a foreign country to settle permanently. For example, “My grandmother emigrated from Norway when she was twenty-nine years old and became an emigrant of Norway.”


While all of this is straightforward, it’s easy to forget if you don’t use the words often. I just learned a little trick from a website called “Learn English” ( ).


It suggests that an easy way to remember the difference between Emigrant and Immigrant is to remember that emigrant begins with an “e”. The word “exit” also begins with an “e”, and that’s what an emigrant does when he/she leaves his home country. Similarly, immigrant begins with an “I” and so does the word “in.” An immigrant comes into a new country.


Hopefully, this simple trick will help me remember the difference between emigrate and immigrate and their variations. It’s a pain to have to look them up every time. “I” and “E” should be easy to remember and apply to the words.


Based on what I’ve read and heard in various genealogical circles, I don’t think I’m the only one who confuses these words. If you’re one of the ones who struggles, maybe this trick will help.


Carol Stetser