Migrate vs. Immigrate – How To Distinguish These Words

11.01.24 Commonly confused words Time to read: 6min

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It’s common to encounter words that are easily confused. These are called commonly confused words. One such pair is “migrate” and “immigrate.” It’s important to understand the difference between these two words because they have different meanings, even though they seem to have the same grammatical function. Incorrect usage can negatively impact the quality of your writing. In academic writing, it’s crucial to be clear and precise to effectively communicate your ideas.

Definition of “migrate vs. immigrate”

“Migrate” and “immigrate” both involve the movement of people, animals, or birds, but they differ in nature and intent. “Migrate” refers to the cyclical or seasonal movement from one region or habitat to another. It is often temporary and may involve a return to the original location, such as birds migrating for the winter. On the other hand, “immigrate” pertains to the act of coming to live permanently in a foreign country. It is a one-time or long-term move intending to establish permanent residency and potentially seek citizenship.

In essence, “migrate” suggests temporary or cyclical movement, while “immigrate” implies a more permanent relocation with the intent of making the new location a permanent home.

Migrate

… is a verb that implies a cyclical or seasonal movement, often associated with animals or people moving temporarily.

Immigrate

… is a verb that implies a more permanent move to a new country or place, intending to establish permanent residency.

The key to differentiating between “migrate” and “immigrate” lies in the nature and intent of the movement. “Immigrate” is from the perspective of the destination. You can think of it as “come in.” While “migrate” is all about moving around, which is why you can think of the word “move.

Using the word “migrate”

The word “migrate” is used as a verb. In the following, there will be example sentences to illustrate the word’s usage as well as an explanation of what it means.

“Migrate” as a verb

As a verb, “migrate” means to move from one region, habitat, or place to another, typically on a regular or seasonal basis. This movement is often associated with changes in environmental conditions, the availability of resources, or breeding patterns. Animals, birds, and even some human populations engage in migration.

Examples

  • Every fall, many bird species migrate to warmer climates to escape the winter.
  • There is an annual event where large herds migrate across the Serengeti.
  • Some fish species migrate upstream to lay their eggs in freshwater.

Tip for using “migrate” correctly

Synonyms of “migrate” avoid repetition and redundancy and improve your language overall. Using them makes your writing more diverse and adds nuance to language. It allows speakers and writers to express the same or similar ideas in different ways, enhancing the richness of communication.

Synonyms Examples
Move Every year, the caribou migrate across the tundra, searching for fresh grazing grounds.
Every year, the caribou move across the tundra, searching for fresh grazing grounds.
Relocate The wildebeests migrate to different areas in response to changing environmental conditions.
The wildebeests relocate to different areas in response to changing environmental conditions.
Travel Some bird species migrate thousands of miles during their annual migration.
Some bird species travel thousands of miles during their annual migration.

Using the word “immigrate”

“Immigrate” is used as a verb. Below, you will find a more thorough explanation of what the word means, along with example sentences to illustrate its usage.

“Immigrate” as a verb

As a verb, “immigrate” means to come to live permanently in a foreign country. It involves the act of moving to a new country to establish permanent residency. Unlike migration, which can be cyclical or seasonal, immigration suggests a more permanent relocation.

Examples

  • She decided to immigrate to Australia for career advancement.
  • The family chose to immigrate to the UK, seeking a more inclusive community.
  • Many skilled professionals immigrate to New York in pursuit of career opportunities.

Tip for using “immigrate” correctly

Incorporating synonyms of “immigrate” into your writing and speech can improve your communication by avoiding repetition, increasing precision, enhancing clarity, accommodating different audiences and tones, and catering to personal style preferences. Each word carries its subtle nuances, allowing you to create a message that is more engaging and better suited to the specific context or desired emphasis.

Synonyms Examples
Move He chose to immigrate to Munich for favorable career prospects.
He chose to move to Munich for favorable career prospects.
Relocate Many refugees dream of immigrating to safer countries with better living conditions.
Many refugees dream of relocating to safer countries with better living conditions.
Settle The family decided to immigrate to Canada, attracted by its welcoming communities.
The family decided to settle in Canada, attracted by its welcoming communities.

Test yourself!

Practice sheet

To improve your ability to differentiate between “migrate” and “immigrate,” complete the practice sentences and refer to the second tab for the solutions.

  1. Every spring, the monarch butterflies ____ to warmer regions for breeding.
  2. The decision to ____ to a new country is a significant life choice.
  3. Many young professionals choose to _____ to urban areas, searching for better job opportunities.
  4. The wildebeest herds ____ across the plains in one of nature’s most remarkable spectacles.
  5. After careful consideration, the family decided to ____ to New Zealand for a fresh start.
  6. Birds often ____ in response to changes in weather patterns and food availability.
  7. The city’s cultural diversity is a result of centuries of people deciding to ____ here.
  8. As winter approaches, some animal species ____ to warmer climates to survive the cold.
  9. Many people ____ from rural areas to cities for access to education and healthcare.
  10. The company’s expansion led employees to ____ to various branches around the world.
  1. Every spring, the monarch butterflies migrate to warmer regions for breeding.
  2. The decision to immigrate to a new country is a significant life choice.
  3. Many young people choose to migrate to urban areas searching for better job opportunities.
  4. The wildebeest herds migrate across the plains in one of nature’s most remarkable spectacles.
  5. After careful consideration, the family decided to immigrate to New Zealand for a fresh start.
  6. Birds often migrate in response to changes in weather patterns and food availability.
  7. The city’s cultural diversity is a result of centuries of people deciding to immigrate here.
  8. As winter approaches, some animal species migrate to warmer climates to survive the cold.
  9. Many people migrate from rural areas to cities for access to education and healthcare.
  10. The company’s expansion led employees to migrate to various branches around the world.
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FAQs

Both “people migrate” and “people immigrate” are correct, but they convey different meanings:

  • “People migrate”: This phrase is a general statement indicating that people move or travel from one place to another. It doesn’t specify the permanence or destination of the movement. Migration can be seasonal, temporary, or permanent.
  • “People immigrate”: This phrase specifically refers to people moving to a new country to establish permanent residency. Immigration implies a more permanent and intentional relocation.

Yes, there is a difference between “migration” and “immigration.

  • “Migration” is a broader term encompassing various types of movement.
  • “Immigration” specifically refers to the process of settling in a new country.

The key differentiation between “migrate” and “immigrate” lies in the nature and intent of the movement. “Migrate” suggests temporary or cyclical movement, often associated with seasonal changes, while “immigrate” implies a more permanent relocation with the intent of making the new location a permanent home.

Here is an example sentence that uses both “migrate” and “immigrate.

Example

  • As winter approaches, many bird species migrate to warmer regions, while some humans choose to immigrate to countries with milder climates for a better quality of life.

 

“Migrate” is used to describe the seasonal movement of bird species. “Immigrate” is used to describe the intentional move of humans to a new country for a more permanent residence.