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‘They’ named Merriam-Webster dictionary’s word of the year

10 December 2019

A common but increasingly mighty and very busy little word, "they", has an accolade all its own.

They, a common pronoun that can be traced back to the 13th century, has been named word of the year by Merriam-Webster dictionary because of its growing usage for non-binary individuals.

The word can be used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary. Weeks later, the American Psychological Association recognized "they" as a singular third-person pronoun in its latest scholarly writing style guide.

Key moments cited by the dictionary publisher where searches spiked were January's Paris Fashion Week featuring nonbinary model Oslo Grace, US congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's April statement about her child being gender-nonconforming and June's Pride celebrations.

The language mavens at Merriam-Webster have declared the personal pronoun their word of the year based on a 313-percent increase in search at

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The definition of "they" as a nonbinary pronoun was added to the three other separate definitions of the word in September.

In September, pop star Sam Smith revealed on social media that their preferred pronouns were "they" and "them", an announcement inspired by a "lifetime of being at war with my gender".

"There is a long road ahead before language, policy and culture are completely affirming and inclusive", Adams said.

Merriam-Webster officially added the nonbinary pronoun as an entry in September.

The pronoun beat other contenders for the word of the year including the phrase "quid pro quo", which saw look-ups boom by 644% following the investigation into Donald Trump's phone conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Merriam-Webster said its annual list of words is determined each year by data, and that lookups are often driven by events in the news.

Also in the mix: "snitty", which emerged on the lips of Attorney General William Barr in reference to a letter by Robert Mueller about a summary Barr wrote of the Mueller report. "This curiosity is remarkable for a venerable old pronoun, and it's a effect in of shifts in the way the word "they" is used".

We have Washington Post columnist George Will to thank for "tergiversation". Past winners have included "justice" in 2018, "feminism" in 2017, and "surreal" in 2016.

Fox News Flash top headlines for December 10 are here.

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‘They’ named Merriam-Webster dictionary’s word of the year