Word choice: Emigrate and immigrate

A reader called writer David Menconi to object to a word use in Menconi’s Arts & Living profile of singer Aline Simone.

Simone was born in the Ukraine in 1975, to dire circumstances because her parents were on the outs with the ruling Soviet regime. Her family immigrated to America when she was an infant.

The caller, who left no name, contended that the verb should have been "emigrated." Menconi had originally written "emigrated," but in proofing the page, I changed the verb to "immigrated," relying on the Associated Press Stylebook and other usage authorities such as Theodore Bernstein, Bryan Garner and Diana Hacker.

Here is the AP entry:

emigrate, immigrate: One who leaves a country emigrates from it. One who comes into a country immigrates. The same principle holds for emigrant and immigrant.

It seemed to me that because the sentence was about where the family went, not where the family left, we should use "immigrate." Garner points out that "immigrate" means to migrate into or enter (a country) and "emigrate" means to migrate away from or exit (a country). That distinction is at the heart of a mnemonic I have heard: emigrate means exit; immigrate means enter. Bernstein wrote that "emigrate" needs "from." Hacker makes the same distinction.



This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.