Nonbinary Pronoun ‘They’ Added to Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In its batch of updated words for September, 2019, the world-famous Merriam-Webster dictionary added more than 530 new words, as well as a new use case for the word they, which can now also be used as a singular, nonbinary pronoun. It seems like an important use case for Merriam-Webster to add to they, as well as one we needed to fill in an already existing gap in available language that accurately describes the world.

Merriam-Webster noted in a recent post that the singular, nonbinary they was added to the dictionary simply because it met the criteria for which words and uses should be added. According to Merriam-Webster, the singular, nonbinary use of they has “meaningful use, sustained use, and widespread use,” which means it necessarily belongs in the dictionary. The singular, nonbinary use of they also has “a clear meaning…. [and is] found in published text, in transcripts, and in general discourse…” which further buttresses the argument for adding the term.

What makes the additional usage even more interesting is the fact that people have apparently used they as a singular pronoun since the 14th century. Merriam-Webster noted in a post related to the announcement of the new use of they that “the development of singular they mirrors the development of the singular you from the plural you” and that “regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular they in casual conversation and often in formal writing.”

It also turns out that Merriam-Webster has been looking for a singular, nonbinary pronoun for “quite a while now”; thanks to the fact that it already has a long history of usage as a singular pronoun, they works perfectly. This means that if you’ve had some trouble adjusting to the usage of they as a singular pronoun, you can now rest assured that it is not only grammatically correct, but also a solve for a distinctive language problem that’s been around for a while.

What do you think of Merriam-Webster’s newly added use case for the word they? Let us know your (grammatically correct) thoughts in the comments!

Feature image: Trevor 

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