‘Exfiltrate’ vs ‘Infiltrate’: What’s the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on August 29, 2023

Are you wondering about the difference between 'exfiltrate' vs. 'infiltrate?'

Here is the short answer:

  • 'Exfiltrate' is a verb that means to remove quietly and secretly from a hostile area. 
  • 'Infiltrate' is a verb and noun that means to pass through something undetected or a little at a time to avoid detection. 

The answer above is just a brief overview of these terms. There is much more to learn. So, keep reading this post with definitions, pronunciation, and examples to learn what these words mean and how to use them.

What is the Difference Between 'Exfiltrate' vs. 'Infiltrate?'

'Exfiltrate' and 'infiltrate' are antonyms. So, they are opposites of each other.

  • The first term starts with the prefix ex. The ex prefix means out of. So, the meaning of 'exfiltrate' is to take something out of a hostile area stealthily. It can also refer to someone illegally extracting data.
  • 'Infiltrate,' on the other hand, starts with the in prefix. The in prefix means in, on, or not. In the case of 'infiltrate,' it means in, or to slowly integrate something so it is unnoticed.

Both terms are commonly used when discussing military tactics. So, if troops are being taken out of a hostile region, they are being 'exfiltrated.' If they are sneaking into an area, they are 'infiltrating.'

When and How to Use 'Exfiltrate' vs. 'Infiltrate'

Now that you know the difference between 'exfiltrate' vs. 'infiltrate,' here are some tips for when and how to use them.

  • Use 'exfiltrate' when saying something or someone is covertly removed from enemy territory.

For example, you might say:

We must exfiltrate our citizens to protect them from the country's corrupt government. 

  • Use 'exfiltrate' when referring to troops being removed from a hostile location.

As an example, you might hear someone say:

The general ordered that our troops be exfiltrated out of enemy territory. 

  • Use 'infiltrate' to say something is permeated into something else.

So, you could say:

The condensation from your drink is infiltrating the wooden table. 

  • Use 'infiltrate' to talk about troops passing a few at a time into an area to avoid detection.

For example, you could say:

It took our troops over a year to infiltrate the enemy nation.

Definition of 'Exfiltrate': What Does 'Exfiltrate' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the meaning of the verb 'exfiltrate' is:

  • To remove covertly from a hostile region

It can also mean:

  • To remove troops covertly from a hostile region
  • To steal sensitive information from a device by extracting it onto an external device
  • To escape stealthily from a hostile region

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Exfiltrate'

'Exfiltrate' is a specific term. Therefore, there are no synonyms you can use in place of the word.

Definition of 'Infiltrate': What Does 'Infiltrate' Mean?

The same dictionary defines the verb 'infiltrate' as:

  • To establish or enter in a gradual, unobtrusive manner

It can also mean:

  • To pass individually or in small groups into enemy territory
  • To pass through by permeation or filtering
  • To cause something to permeate or pass through an object's pores
  • To enter, pass, or into an area or substance by penetrating it

'Infiltrate' can also be a noun that means:

  • The process of passing through something through permeation or sneaking in a little at a time

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Infiltrate'

  • Slip
  • Sneak
  • Worm
  • Wiggle
  • Wind
  • Wriggle
  • Insert
  • Edge
  • Creep
  • Introduce
  • Interpose
  • Insinuate
  • Interpolate
  • Work in

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Exfiltrate' vs. 'Infiltrate'

Next, let's look at the pronunciation of 'exfiltrate' vs. 'infiltrate.' Learning how to pronounce confusing terms like these can help you remember their meanings and give you the confidence to use them when you are writing or conversing.

So, here is a pronunciation guide you can reference.

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'exfiltrate':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'infiltrate':


As you can see, with the exception of the ex and in prefixes, these terms have the same pronunciation.

Sample Sentences Using 'Exfiltrate' vs. 'Infiltrate'

Before you leave, read these sample sentences using 'exfiltrate' vs. 'infiltrate.' They will show you how to use these terms in different contexts and help you remember how to use them.


  • The officials announced that they will not be exfiltrating any more of our citizens from the war-torn nation.
  • The military leaders met to discuss the best way to exfiltrate our troops.
  • I was exfiltrated from the hostile region in a stealth mission orchestrated by special forces.
  • We have to figure out how to exfiltrate our military equipment from the enemy nation.
  • Hackers exfiltrate data in an attempt to gain access to information they can use for profit.


  • The team has specialized skills that allow them to infiltrate nations without detection.
  • Did you burn popcorn in the break room again? The smell is infiltrating my office.
  • The new skin serum is specially formulated to infiltrate your pores.
  • If you are going to infiltrate the enemy nation, you must have patience.
  • When I got up to read my speech, her insults infiltrated my brain.


  • The enemy infiltrated while we were focused on exfiltrating our troops.

Recap: The Difference Between 'Exfiltrate' vs. 'Infiltrate'

Congratulations! You made it to the end of this post. But before you go, here is a quick recap of the difference between 'exfiltrate' vs. 'infiltrate':

  • 'Exfiltrate' and 'infiltrate' are antonyms or opposites. 
  • 'Exfiltrate' is a verb that means to extract people or things from a hostile region. 
  • 'Infiltrate' is a verb and noun that means to gradually pass through gaps in enemy lines or to permeate into the pores of something. 

After reading this entire post, you will likely remember the difference between these terms. However, if you find yourself questioning which one to use in the future, you can return to this page to review this lesson.

You can also verify the correct usages and meanings of hundreds of other terms in the confusing words section here. Each guide contains valuable information like definitions, pronunciations, and usage tips.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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