Merriam-Webster adds the nonbinary pronoun ‘they’ to dictionary
Merriam-Webster officials made the announcement Tuesday, Sept. 17 that the word “they” can be used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary, along with three other separate definitions.
Officials used the word in a sentence as an example: “I knew certain things about … the person I was interviewing … They had adopted their gender-neutral name a few years ago, when they began to consciously identify as nonbinary — that is, neither male nor female. They were in their late 20s, working as an event planner, applying to graduate school.”
Merriam-Webster officials acknowledged that “they” consistently has been used a singular pronoun since the late 1300s. While adopting the pronoun as a nonbinary description is vastly preferable for some, Merriam-Webster officials said there has also been some debate that it is ungrammatical.
“Much has been written on they, and we aren’t going to attempt to cover it here,” a post on the dictionary’s website read.
Merriam-Webster officials also noted evidence in the company’s files of the nonbinary “they” dating back to 1950, and it’s likely there are earlier uses of the nonbinary pronoun out there.
Merriam-Webster’s latest batch of updates included 533 new words and meanings added to the dictionary.
“Words can come and go in a language, but those that show staying power and increasing use need to be recorded and described,” read a statement from Merriam-Webster.
Some of the other new words and terms included: