Merriam-Webster Names “They” Word of the Year

Nora Toscano, Reporter

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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has recently named “they” as their 2019 word of the year. In September 2019, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary added an additional definition to the word “they.”  Along with its old definitions, “they” is now also defined as “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” “They” is a genderneutral pronoun that is used instead of “he” or “she.”

Around the same time “they” and “themself” were added to the dictionary, British superstar musician Sam Smith came out as nonbinary.  According to Merriam-Webster, “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.”  In the past year, searches for the word “they” have increased by 313% compared to last year.  

There wasn’t an official second-place word, but another phrase that was searched frequently this year was “quid pro quo,” which is a saying that has come up multiple times during the proceedings of President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing.  Merriam-Webster defines it as “something given or received for something else.” In 2016, the word of the year was “surreal,” in 2017, it was “feminism,” and last year, it was “justice.”

The Collins Dictionary has also announced their word of the year, “climate strike,” which has been searched an average of 100 times more than last year.  Other words that were almost chosen as word of the year for the Collins Dictionary were “influencer,” “rewilding,” and “nonbinary.” Oxford Dictionary also recently named “climate emergency” their word of the year for 2019.