1690s, "to pass from one place to another," from Latin migratus, past participle of migrare "to move from one place to another," probably originally *migwros, from PIE *(e)meigw- (source of Greek ameibein "to change"), which is an extended form of root *mei- (1) "to change, go, move" or perhaps a separate root. Of animals, "to remove from one habitat to another at a distance," by 1753. Specifically of persons or groups by 1770, "to pass or remove from one place of residence to another at a distance," especially from one country to another. Related: Migrated; migrating.
To migrate is to change one's abode, especially to a distance or to another country, emphasis being laid upon the change, but not upon the place of departure or that of stopping, and the stay being generally not permanent. Emigrate, to migrate from, views the person as leaving his previous abode and making a new home; immigrate, to migrate into, views him as coming to the new place. The Arab migrates; the European coming to America is an emigrant to those whom he leaves, and an immigrant to the Americans. [Century Dictionary, 1897]