Gray Matter


Expatriate Doesn’t Mean Ex-Patriot for Americans Living Abroad

RT Cunningham | September 24, 2020 (UTC) | Culture

expatriateAfter moving to the Philippines in 2006, I noticed the word “expatriate” used and abused more often than any other when it came to American citizens living outside the United States. Even though “expatriate” sounds a lot like “ex-patriot”, I assure you the meanings of the words are completely different. An expatriate is not an ex-patriot.

In writing, we use “expat” far more often than “expatriate” because the shortened version is easier to read and easier to say. Anyway, it may help you understand the differences if I lay it all out for you.


The word “patriot” has a couple of common meanings:

  1. A person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
  2. A person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.

An ex-patriot, therefore, would be someone who is now opposed to either or both of these 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. It’s a verb as well as a noun.

  1. To banish (a person) from his or her native country.
  2. To withdraw (oneself) from residence in one’s native country.
  3. To withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one’s country.
  4. An expatriated person.


The word “repatriate” has only one meaning: To bring a person or send a person back to the 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 become citizens of the Philippines again by affirming a new oath of allegiance - they become dual citizens. Those who become American citizens today are automatically dual citizens, as are their children.

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 the United States would probably fall under. Since I don’t intend to become a Filipino citizen (and becoming a Filipino citizen wouldn’t benefit me at all), repatriation isn’t an issue I’ll ever have to contend with.

I figured I’d better make sure people understand what I’m talking about when I mention “expat” or “expatriate” in other places. I don’t want people confusing the meanings because I’m an expatriate and a patriot at the same time.

Photo Attribution: DWilliams from Pixabay
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in August 2013.

Share: Facebook | Twitter

These Posts May Also Interest You: