Merriam-Webster adds non-binary pronoun ‘they’ to dictionary

merriam webster dictionary non binary sam smith gender
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Merriam-Webster has officially added the non-binary definition of “they” to its dictionary.

The dictionary now defines “they” as “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary,” along with three other definitions.

Merrian-Webster’s definition for pronoun “themself” also states it is “now used chiefly in place of ‘himself or herself’ as a gender-neutral reflexive form of ‘they’ when the reference is to a single person.”

The addition to the dictionary reflects the word’s increased usage as a pronoun referring to non-binary people, who identify as neither male nor female.

In a blog post, the Merriam-Webster dictionary explained the pronoun “they” has been in “consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s”.

They said they had found an example of the pronoun used to describe a non-binary identity as early as the 1950s.

“Regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular ‘they’ in casual conversation and often in formal writing,” Merriam-Webster said.

“’They’ is taking on a new use, however: as a pronoun of choice for someone who doesn’t identify as either male or female.

“There have always been people who didn’t conform to an expected gender expression, or who seemed to be neither male nor female.

“But we’ve struggled to find the right language to describe these people – and in particular, the right pronouns.

“The new use of they is direct, and it is for a person whose gender is known, but who does not identify as male or female.

“If I were introducing a friend who preferred to use the pronoun ‘they’, I would say, ‘This is my friend, Jay. I met them at work.’”

Non-binary celebrity Sam Smith prefers ‘they/them’ pronouns

It comes after British singer Sam Smith, who identifies as non-binary, last week announced their preferred pronouns are now “they/them,” and not “he/him”.

“After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out,” they wrote in a series of tweets.

“I understand there will be many mistakes and mis-gendering but all I ask is you please try.

“I hope you can see me like I see myself now.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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