‘They’ is top word: Nonbinary pronoun leads Merriam-Webster’s 2019 list

Credit: Jenny Kane/Associated Press

Credit: Jenny Kane/Associated Press

It has been a personal pronoun for more than 600 years, but “they” took on a new meaning and garnered more interest in 2019.

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The nonbinary pronoun was named the Merriam-Webster word of the year, the dictionary announced on its website Tuesday.

According to the American English dictionary's website, searches for the term rose by 313% in the past year.

"English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like 'everyone' or 'someone,' and as a consequence 'they' has been used for this purpose for over 600 years," Merriam-Webster said on its website.

The definition of "they" as a nonbinary pronoun was added to the other definitions of the world in September. It refers to a person whose gender identity is nonbinary, and the phrase has become more prevalent on social media, edited text and personal interactions.

"There's no doubt that its use is established in the English language," dictionary officials said, prompting its addition to the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary.

Other terms that were popular searches in 2019 included "quid pro quo," "impeach," "crawdad" and "egregious," according to the dictionary's website.

Previous words of the year selected by Merriam-Webster were "justice" in 2018, "feminism" in 2017 and "surreal" in 2016, CNN reported.

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