Make Your Editor Cry: Ex-patriot vs. Expatriate

Make Your Editor Cry: Ex-patriot vs. Expatriate

The increasingly common misspelling of “expatriate” as “ex-patriot” twists the noun’s meaning in a curious way. An “expatriate,” which is often shortened to “expat,” is merely physically living away from his or her homeland. In common usage, the term often refers to professionals, skilled workers, or artists taking positions outside their home country. This does not speak to that individual’s feelings of allegiance to said homeland.

Historically, the term expatriate has also referred to exiles. For example, during the 1930s, Nazi Germany revoked the citizenship of many political opponents such as Albert Einstein, Oskar Maria Graf, Willy Brandt, and Thomas Mann, often expatriating entire families

On the other hand, an “ex-patriot” has evidently emotionally distanced him or herself from said homeland, but where that person physically resides is apparently irrelevant. Formerly a patriot, someone whom the dictionary describes as “devoted to and ready to defend” his country, the ex-patriot has had a change of heart and so is a former patriot, and either feels ambivalent or even hostile toward his homeland.

Therefore, when you are describing someone who is living in a country other than his homeland, then “expatriate” is the correct term. But when describing someone who formerly loved his homeland but now the honeymoon is over, then “ex-patriot” would be the proper term.


Ernest Hemingway portrayed American expatriates in peril abroad beginning with his debut novel, The Sun Also Rises.
American born ex-patriots like Michael Moore, Jane Fonda, Alec Baldwin, Madonna, Sean Penn, Danny Glover, and Johnny Depp continue to enjoy wide fame as entertainers among US audiences.

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