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Historical precedent of the word 'immigrant'

asked 2017-03-08 16:06:39 -0400

joeldadrummer gravatar image

I am writing to ask for your expertise and clarity. There seems to be much confusion over the word ‘immigrant’ recently, and I suspect that many people’s colloquial view of the word is incorrect in regards to the technical definition. Can the word ‘immigrant’ distinguish the cause of migration (or emigration)? Is there any historical precedent that an immigrant is one that immigrates by choice only, given that ‘immigrant' can refer to both animal and plant organism? The word ‘refugee’ is defined as those who are forced to flee their homeland, so can the definition of the word ‘immigrant’ distinguish between an immigrant refugee’s forced migration and any other immigrant’s forced migration? I very much appreciate any insight and help you could provide.

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answered 2017-03-11 16:16:16 -0400

Hi, Joel,

The only thing that occurs to me to distinguish between forced and unforced emigration would be the use of that adjective or some other appropriate one. Likewise for immigration. Both words come from Latin originally, the prefix in- (im-) indicating 'into' and e- (from ex-) indicating 'out of'. We might then call some types of slavery forced immigration (/emigration).


James L. Fidelholtz Posgrado en Ciencias del Lenguaje Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla Puebla, Puebla, MÉXICO

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Asked: 2017-03-08 16:06:39 -0400

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Last updated: Mar 08 '17