Beyond the Rhetoric


Grammar 101: Expatriate, Not Ex-Patriot

June 6th, 2011 by
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Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

When you’ve only heard and spoken a word, but never written it, getting the right spelling can be quite the challenge. This is particularly true with words that you don’t use very often. A great example of this is expatriate. Does the spelling look odd to you? It might.

An expatriate (called an “expat” for short) is a person who is currently living outside of their native country. A great example of this would be an American or Canadian who has taken a temporary position with a company overseas. We see this all the time. You can also use expatriate as a verb or as an adjective. This job may require you to expatriate. Many expatriate engineers live in that complex.

Because the term “expatriate” does refer to countries, it is very common for someone to think that it should be spelled as expatriot or ex-patriot. And those would be incorrect. Like the confusion between queue and cue, expatriate and ex-patriot would have entirely different meanings.

An expat is as I describe. An ex-patriot (which isn’t really a word) would more closely refer to someone who used to be a patriot (a person who vigorously supports his/her country), not unlike an ex-girlfriend or ex-military personnel.

A common place where you may hear about an expatriate is in the context of an expatriate bar (expat bar). In places like Taipei and Hong Kong, there can be several expat bars where people from their home countries can feel like they are home again.

Do you have a suggestion for a future Grammar 101 post? I’d love to hear from you! Use the comment form on this post to let me know.

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4 Responses to “Grammar 101: Expatriate, Not Ex-Patriot”

  1. betshopboy says:

    Since there was mention of ‘ex’ (as in ex-girlfriend) in the post, would you care to do a post on ‘ex’ vs ‘former’?

  2. Ray Ebersole says:

    This is a great example of how grammar is really messed up in the English language. Expatriate, while it’s meaning is clear to me, is pronounced the way the improper word expatriot would come to someone’s mind that did not know the true meaning of the word.

    I know all languages have words that sound like they should be spelled differently or have different meanings from other more common words that we use, but it is just a pain sometimes to have to translate what someone means while I’m having a conversation.

    I see this all the time in the school system here in Florida with the Hispanic students that Spanish is the only language spoken at home and they have to use English at school. It is painful to watch them take the time to translate the English into Spanish in their heads so that they understand what is being taught to them.

  3. Zagorath says:

    Wow, I never knew this!
    I myself am an expatriate, and I always thought the word came from patriot. Thanks so much for this post!

  4. Annie Coelho says:

    I always thought expatriate was ex-patriot and was surprised when I saw the word in a book I was reading. Being that I am always right ;), I couldn’t believe that this author had spelled the word wrong! I have seen it several times since then and figured I should find out for myself. A true expatriate is not even what I thought it was, by the sound of the word. So thanks for the clarification.

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