1. A person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another.
2. An organism that establishes itself in an area where it previously did not exist.
Of or relating to immigrants or the act of immigrating.
Usage Note: Everyone agrees that the word immigrant can be applied to someone who moves voluntarily to a given country or region intending to settle there. But is it acceptable to refer to the enslaved Africans who were brought to America against their will in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s as “immigrants”? In recent years, more than one politician and textbook publisher has attracted ridicule and condemnation for describing the enslaved Africans as if they were simply another of the many immigrant groups that helped make America what it is today. Whether the slaves were or were not immigrants in some sense is a matter of delicate semantic interpretation, but it is probably not appropriate to refer to them as such without significant qualification; to do so is likely to be taken as ignoring the extraordinary brutality of the transatlantic slave trade.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus