Merriam-Webster dictionary adds ‘they’ as a pronoun

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has updated the description of the word ‘they’ to include it being used as a pronoun for non-binary people.

The dictionary acknowledges that there has been a lot of debate about the use of the word, but also notes that it has been used regularly as a pronoun since the 1950’s and there are examples of the word being used in this way going back hundreds of years.

Merriam-Webster uses the word in a sentence as an example: “I knew certain things about … the person I was interviewing…. They had adopted their gender-neutral name a few years ago, when they began to consciously identify as nonbinary — that is, neither male nor female. They were in their late 20s, working as an event planner, applying to graduate school.”

Laura Russell, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at British LGBTI rights organisation Stonewall welcomed the updated definition.

“It’s great to see Merriam-Webster has officially recognised ‘they’ as a singular, non-binary pronoun. The dictionary also rightly highlighted the long history ‘they’ has in being used as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s. Having and understanding inclusive language that recognise different identities is really important.

“Addressing trans people with their correct pronouns and respecting someone’s pronouns is crucial. This is particularly vital for non-binary people as they are not recognised under the current Gender Recognition Act. Now more than ever, we need to work toward building a world where LGBT people are truly accepted, everywhere and by everyone.” Russell said.

OIP Staff