Emigrate vs. Immigrate: What’s the Difference?

Grammar Rules updated on  May 16, 2023 2 min read

The difference between emmigrate and immigrate is that emigrate means to leave a country, and immigrate means to move into a country.

Meanings of emigrate vs. immigrate

Both of these words have the root word migrate, which simply means to move from one place to another. And, like many other commonly confused word pairs, they have nearly the same pronunciation. So how do you know whether to use emigrate or immigrate? It’s all about whether you’re coming or going:

  • emigrate (v.): to move out of a country, from Latin e- (short for ex-, “out of”) and migrare (“to migrate”)
  • immigrate (v.): to move into a country, from Latin in- (“in” or “into”) and migrare (“to migrate”)

When to use emigrate vs. immigrate

When you’re talking about a permanent move from one country to another, you can use either one of these words. But the correct choice depends on what aspect of the move you want to focus on.

If leaving a country is the point of the sentence, you should use emigrate:

The refugee crisis caused the Khaled family and many of their neighbors to leave for a foreign country during a mass emigration.

Amid political instability, millions of Venezuelans have emigrated over the past decade, leaving for Chile, Colombia, and Peru.

Chinese entrepreneurs often emigrate from China to Singapore, and many find the EB-5 visa appealing in the US.

They emigrated from their home country without a destination country in mind.

But if entering a new country is the main idea, use immigrate:

US expatriates often immigrate to Mexico or Canada.

More than a third of Saudi Arabia’s population immigrated to the country.

Ethiopia is proud to offer a new home to forced migrants, so natives of South Sudan and Somalia have immigrated there in large numbers.

Many people moving to one country is called mass immigration.

Remember the difference between emigrate and immigrate

A simple look at the first letter of each word can help you remember what they mean:

  • Emigrate starts with e, like exit
  • Immigrate starts with i, like in

That’s all there is to it! But if you’d like some extra help to remember which is which, you can always use QuillBot. Our free Spelling Checker can spot the difference and let you know instantly whether you’ve got it right.

Need help with correct spelling?
QuillBot's Spell Checker is here to assist you with that!

Remember: emigrate means to leave one's country, and immigrate means to enter a new country.

QuillBot can also tell you whether changes to your punctuation and grammar would be helpful, which makes it a great tool for a final proofread. It’s easy to use when you’re writing academic papers, such as essays, but it’s perfect for business and personal documents, too.

How do you use emigrate and immigrate in a sentence?

Write emigrate from when the focus is on moving out of a country, but write immigrate to when the sentence is about moving into a country:

  • Refugees often emigrate from their home countries to escape political and economic turmoil.
  • The Diazes immigrated to the US and bought a home in Arizona.

Is it my family immigrated or emigrated?

It depends. If you’re talking about leaving your family’s home country, use emigrated. But if you’re describing your family’s move into a new country, use immigrated.


Hannah Skaggs

Along with Paige Pfeifer

Hannah, a writer and editor since 2017, specializes in clear and concise academic and business writing. She has mentored countless scholars and companies in writing authoritative and engaging content.

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