The non-binary pronoun ‘They’ has now been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary as one of four definitions of the word.
One of the World’s leading and most-trusted provider of language information, Merriam-Webster announced this week that the word “they” can be used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary along with three other separate definitions.
This announcement follows singer Sam Smith’s admission that they would like to be referred to as ‘they’ instead of ‘he’, six months after coming out as non-binary.
Merriam-Webster uses 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 acknowledges 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 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 reads.
Merriam-Webster also notes it has evidence in its files of the nonbinary “they” dating back to 1950, and that it’s likely there are earlier uses of the nonbinary pronoun out there.
Merriam-Webster’s latest batch of updates includes 533 new words and meanings added to the dictionary including the meaning for inclusive which they now suggest, “allowing and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability).”
Merriam-Webster has been around for over 150 years and will continue to lead the language used in our lives particularly in North America.
“Words can come and go in a language, but those that show staying power and increasing use need to be recorded and described,” reads a statement from Merriam-Webster.