Merriam-Webster Adds Nonbinary ‘They’ Pronoun to Dictionary

The new entry explicitly refers to nonbinary people — those who identify as neither exclusively male nor female

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Merriam-Webster's dictionary is adding a new entry to the definition of the pronoun “they”: a way to refer to a nonbinary individual, one who identifies as neither exclusively male nor female, NBC News reported.

It’s been a year of heightened visibility for nonbinary people, from the popularity of MTV’s “sexually fluid” season of the dating show “Are You the One?” — which counted nonbinary folks among its cast members — to the Grammy-winning artist Sam Smith’s recent decision to use gender-neutral they/them pronouns. Merriam-Webster’s addition is yet another recognition of the cultural relevance and growing acceptance of nonbinary identity, and it gives new credence to the increasingly common use of they/them pronouns.

Emily Brewster, a senior editor for Merriam-Webster, said factors like the growing practice of soliciting or giving out one’s pronouns, the growing number of people who identify as nonbinary, and the acceptance of the nonbinary “they” pronoun in a wide variety of texts all coalesced to make the new addition an obvious choice.

“We are always aiming to reflect usage,” she said. “It’s very clear that this is fully established in the language at this point.”

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