• immigrant •
im-ê-grênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A person, plant or animal that moves by whatever means into a new territory, that migrates to a new locale.
Notes: Today's Good Word is the noun from the verb immigrate. Do not confuse this word with emigrate. The prefix im- is a variant of Latin in "in" while the e- on emigrate is a remnant of ex "away, out of". The same applies to emigrant, a person who migrates away from a place and immigrant, a person who migrates to a place. Remember today's word has a double M but emigrant does not. The neutral verb migrate and its noun, migrant, indicate movement from one place to another without a specific plan or direction, as migrant workers do. While all these nouns may also be used as adjectives, migrate has its own adjective: migratory, as in migratory birds.
In Play: Although the US is a nation built on immigration, the unusually large number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America has become a political issue: "Will Doolittle says that he could not run his company today without the help of immigrants, documented or not." From 1892 to 1954 more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island, the major entry point for immigration over that period.
Word History: Today's word comes from Latin immigran(t)s "immigrating", the present participle of immigrare "immigrate". This verb came from in "in" + migrare "migrate", very straightforward. Where migrare comes from is another question. Latin had a verb meare "go, pass by", which probably comes from the same source as the mi- in migrate. Another stem in Latin was gregare "collect, gather together". The original root of this word is simply gre- and it might have gone into the making of migrare, though exactly how is unclear. (It is clear, however, that we must thank Evelyn Allen for suggesting today's often confused word. Thanks to Bobby and his teacher, Brooke Thompson, at Bear Mountain School in Bellevue, Washington, for finding the link to the Ellis Island Website.)