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Merriam-Webster Names "They" the 2019 Word of the Year

The gender-neutral pronoun saw a 313 percent increase in searches.

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Merriam-Webster Names "They" the 2019 Word of the Year

The gender-neutral pronoun saw a 313 percent increase in searches.

Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster has officially crowned the singular form of “they” its Word of the Year for 2019. The company’s announcement follows its inclusion of the gender-neutral pronoun in the dictionary back in September — and is a major step forward in correcting those who still believe that the singular use of “they” must be grammatically incorrect.

Merriam-Webster cites rising searches for “they,” perhaps in response to celebrities such as Sam Smith and Hunter Schafer publicly identifying with the pronoun, as part of the reason for its recognition. The dictionary also pointed out that “they” has been used as a gender-neutral identifier for over 600 years. Adding impetus to recognize “they” as word of the year, the American Psychological Association officially recommended in October that professional writing use “they” to reference individuals who prefer the pronoun or persons whose gender is unknown.

Additional words included in Merriam-Webster’s end of the year roundup are “camp,” “impeach” and “quid pro quo.” Head to the publisher’s website for the full list.

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