Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference between emigrate and immigrate

The two words immigrate and emigrate are often used in place of each other and in some cases that is deliberate. What are considered as the same words are actually different and in fact opposite of each other. Some people even consider the two words to have the same meaning but different spellings due to the US/British English systems. However, the two words are not the same and as we are soon about to find out, the incorrect usage or interchanging of these two words can totally change the meaning to be the reverse of what it is supposed to be!

Emigration and immigration take place one after the other and it is not possible to do one and not the other. The two words are like the two legs of a movement or a migration. An immigrant as well as an emigrant, both are migrants, that is, have migrated from one place to another. If a person leaves a place, he is said to emigrate from there, that is, exit from that place or country. Obviously, when a person leaves a country, he moves into another country. He is said to immigrate there, that is, enter into that country. Therefore it can be safely said that immigration follows emigration and the difference between the two is with respect to the country of origin.

It is sometimes difficult to remember that which of these words mean what especially as they have the same pronunciation and almost the same spelling. The best way to remember is to recall the first letter of the word and associate it with another word. The ‘e’ in emigrate can be remembered as exiting, that is, leaving a country. When you remember one, the other is easy to remember as well. However, you can also remember the ‘I’ in immigration as ‘in’ that is, going in or entering a country.

There are also some other associations with the words emigrate and immigrate. Emigration is usually meant as leaving one’s country of origin. For example, if a Native American is about to leave America, then only he is said to emigrate. On the other hand, to immigrate is to enter a foreign country temporarily or permanently; the example being of a British moving into America who can be said to be immigrating. These associations were usually true a few years back but currently being a native or being a foreign is not associated with the meaning of these two words. Even those who enter their own country after touring some other country have are said to be immigrating although it is actually their home country. If you want an example of this, make sure you recall this the next time you return to your country after a vacation spent abroad and still have to stand in the immigration queue! (This however, is not true for all countries; in some countries natives are not required to immigrate officially)

A common analysis is of net migration of a country. Net migration is merely the number of immigrants that enter a country less the number of emigrants who leave the country. The effect of immigration and emigration is exactly opposite on net migration. An increase in the immigration numbers makes the net migration more positive (increases it) whereas an increase in emigration makes the net migration value less positive or more negative (decreases it).

Summary of differences expressed in points

  1. Emigration and immigration are not the same; have opposite meaning
  2. Emigration-the act of exiting a country; emigrating that country; Immigrating-the act of going into a country; immigrating that country
  3. Emigration is followed by immigration; they are the two legs of any migration; differ with respect to the country concerned (country left or entered)
  4. In the past immigration meant entering a new country; today it can be any country; past, emigrate meant leaving one’s own country, today, one can emigrate from a foreign country as well
  5. Easy way to remember; ‘e‘ in emigrate stands for ‘exit’, ‘I’ in immigrate stands for ‘in’, that is, going in (into another country)

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