Language Tips

Spelling tip of the week – immigrant

Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of spelling tips we will be looking at some of the most commonly misspelled words in English and suggesting ways to improve your spelling.

People looking up the noun immigrant in Macmillan Dictionary sometimes mistakenly spell it *imigrant. The same applies to related words such as immigrate and immigration. It may be that they are confused by the spelling of the ‘pair’ of immigrant, ’emigrant’, which has a single ‘m’.

As so often with English spelling, the reasons can be found in the words’ etymologies. Immigrant comes from the Latin verb ‘immigrare’, which is formed from the prefix ‘im-‘ and the verb ‘migrare’. ‘Im-‘ means the same as ‘in-‘ and is used when the word it’s attached to begins with b, m or p; so instead of ‘in-migrate’ you get ‘im-migrate’. This modification took place in Latin and is still found in English (and French) words of Latin origin. ‘Emigrate,’ ’emigrant’ and so on also come from Latin and are formed from the prefix ‘e-‘ (or ex-) meaning ‘out’ and ‘migrare’, and so only have one ‘m’.

You can find some information on why English spelling is so difficult, as well as helpful tips on mastering it here. You can search for other posts in this series using the tag ‘spelling tips’.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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