A reader asks:
Emigrate, immigrate, migrate. What is the proper usage of these words? It seems like the [use] is indiscriminate.
All three words trace their origin to the Latin verb migrare, “to remove from one place to another.” This common ancestor gives English four verbs:
migrate: to move, either temporarily or permanently, from one place, area, or country of residence to another
emigrate: (e, “out” + migrate) to remove out of country for the purpose of settling in another.
immigrate: (im, “in, into” + migrate) to come to settle in a country not one’s own; to pass into a new place of residence.
transmigrate: (trans, “across” + migrate) of the soul: to pass after death into another body.
The verbs yield several noun forms, some of which are also used as adjectives:
Usage examples from the Web:
There is a challenge for policy-makers to understand the obstacles migrants face in Australia.
Committee on Migrant Workers discusses role of migration statistics for treaty reporting and migration policies.
Although not common, two additional adjectives sometimes seen are immigrational and migrational.
From Multiculturalism to Immigrational Survavalism [sic] (headline at novitiate.com)
Immigrational Background Affects the Effectiveness of a School-based Overweight Prevention Program Promoting Water Consumption (title of research paper)
A common error is to confuse immigrant and emigrant. Here’s an instance when etymological information can help with spelling. Just remember that the prefix im- means “in” and that the prefix e- means “out”:
When Charles Darnay fled France to escape the guillotine, he was an emigrant. When he settled in England, he was an immigrant.
A migrant is simply on the move, not necessarily planning a permanent change of address.
Plants and animals also migrate, as do things on computers.