After moving to the Philippines in 2006, I noticed the word “expatriate” used and abused more frequently than any other when it comes to American citizens living outside of the United States. Even though “expatriate” sounds a lot like “ex-patriot”, I assure you the meanings of the words are completely different. In writing, sometimes “expat” is used instead of “expatriate”, either because the writer isn’t sure how to spell it or because the writer doesn’t know how to spell it. It may help you understand the differences if I lay it all out for you.
The word “patriot” has a couple of common meanings:
- A person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
- A person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.
An ex-patriot, therefore, would be someone who is now opposed to either or both of the two definitions. That person, most likely, would be an insurgent or a supporter of an insurgency.
The root word, “patriate” has no meaning for an individual and is a back-formed word from “repatriate”, which I’ll be listing after this. The word “expatriate” has a few common meanings.
- To banish (a person) from his or her native country.
- To withdraw (oneself) from residence in one’s native country.
- To withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one’s country.
- An expatriated person.
The word “repatriate” has only one meaning when it comes to individuals: To bring or send back (a person, especially a prisoner of war, a refugee, etc.) to his or her country or land of citizenship.
While repatriation has no bearing on most Americans, Republic Act No. 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003) of the Philippines allows for Filipinos that became citizens of a foreign country to be citizens of the Philippines again by affirming a new oath of allegiance. This is how Filipino-Americans are able to be dual-citizens.
What am I?
Well, I probably fall under both definitions of “patriot”, but I only fall under the 2nd and 4th definition of “expatriate”, which is what most Americans living outside of the United States would probably be classified as. Since I don’t intend to become a Filipino citizen, repatriation isn’t an issue I’ll ever have to contend with.
You see, you can be a patriot and an expatriate at the same time because of the differences in meanings.