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Home / Books / Merriam-Webster names the word of the year: They

Merriam-Webster names the word of the year: They

Two months ago, the dictionary added the word ‘they’ as a non-binary pronoun that can refer to just one person.

books Updated: Dec 11, 2019 10:58 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Delhi
Merriam-Webster word of the year is They.
Merriam-Webster word of the year is They.(www.merriam-webster.com)
         

The pronoun ‘they’, used by non-binary people who identify as neither male nor female, was named word of the year by US dictionary Merriam-Webster.

In the English language, more and more people are exercising their right to choose the pronoun by which they are identified, regardless of their sex at birth -- such as ‘they’ instead of ‘she’ or ‘he’.

Two months ago, the dictionary added the word ‘they’ as a non-binary pronoun that can refer to just one person.

Word of the year by Merriam-Webster (2010-2019):
  • 2019: They
  • 2018: Justice
  • 2017: Feminism
  • 2016: Surreal
  • 2015: -ism
  • 2014: Culture
  • 2013: Science
  • 2012: Socialism
  • 2011: Pragmatic
  • 2010: Austerity

“There’s no doubt that its use is established in the English language, which is why it was added to the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary this past September,” the website said, adding that searches for ‘they’ crossed 300 percent this year as more and more people identify as nonbinary - neither a man nor a woman.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Dictionary.com, the usage of a singular ‘they’ was grammatically correct and had been used since at least the late 14th century.

 

Nonbinary people are enjoying increased representation on television and in pop culture. Among them is British artist Sam Smith, who recently revealed a preference for ‘they/them’ pronouns “after a lifetime of being at war with my gender.”

Tech giant Apple has added “neutral” emojis that don’t distinguish between gender to the latest version of its operating system.

-- With inputs from AFP

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