Renowned dictionary Merriam-Webster has named “They” as its 2019 Word of the Year on December 10th.
While the word has obviously been present within the English language since its inception, it is its usage as a singular nonbinary pronoun in place of “he” and “she” that called for attention.
Merriam-Webster added the singular pronoun “they” to their dictionary in September 2019. According to the company, searches for the word went up 313% from last year.
“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone,” Merriam-Webster explained in an article announcing the decision. “As a consequence, “they” has been used for this purpose for over 600 years.”
But now, the company says, there is no doubt that its use as a nonbinary pronoun is well-established.
Among the other terms featured in Merriam Webster’s annual list were “Quid Pro Quo,” “Impeach,” “Snitty,” and “The.”
The Word of the Year winners for the last three years were “Justice,” “Feminism,” and “Surreal.”
The word “they” made headlines earlier this year when Grammy Award-winning pop star Sam Smith announced his pronouns where “they/them”.
With the announcement, Smith joined the ever-growing number of people from a wide mix of cultures and languages who are designating their pronouns in order to better reflect their gender nonconformity.