Merriam Webster Adds ‘They’ as a Non-binary Pronoun Among 533 New Words

Merriam-Webster announced on Tuesday the addition of 533 new words to the dictionary and 4,000 other revisions to definitions, etymologies, pronunciations, and dates of first known use.

Words ranging from serious to the playful, from the technical to the informal, from ‘deep state’ to ‘dad joke’ have been added to the dictionary.

Acknowledging that “they” has been consistently used as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s, Merriam-Webster announced that the word “they” can be used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary

The other definition of the word “they” included; “It’s an expansion of a use that is sometimes called the ‘singular they’ (and one that has a long history in English).” The definition added that when a reflexive pronoun corresponding to singular use of “they” is needed, themself is seeing increasing use.

While for many English-speakers, the use of “they” to refer to the genders other than male and female might seem ungrammatical, Merriam-Webster has officially put a stamp on the word.

Dennis Baron, professor emeritus of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, while talking to the Washington Post, said that “Language responds to social change. Things that need to be expressed get expressed.”

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“Dictionaries are considered to be ‘constitutional’ authorities by many English-speakers but the reality is that they are not intended to set rules on how people should behave,” Baron said. He added, “They’re a general indication of how language is being used at a particular time.”

Merriam-Webster has added new words in different sections of the dictionary including psychology, games and sports, pop culture, politics and law, new abbreviations, race and identity. New words were also integrated into sections of linguistics and business and finance.

“Words can come and go in a language, but those that show staying power and increasing use need to be recorded and described. In other words: they need definitions.”

Read the blog post of Merriam-Webster. 

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