sam smith
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“They” is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year

Sam Smith and Pose's Indya Moore both shared their preference for they/them pronouns this year.

Merriam-Webster recently updated its dictionary entry for the word “they,” adding this new definition: “—used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” The update was added in September this year and in just a few short months, the term has gone from being one of Merriam-Webster’s newest dictionary entries to being named the Word of the Year for 2019.

If you look it up, the dictionary notes that “they” has been in consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s but that it has recently taken on a new use as a pronoun of choice for someone who doesn’t identify as either male or female. “This is a different use than the traditional singular they, which is used to refer to a person whose gender isn’t known or isn’t important in the context.”

Singer Sam Smith came out as non-binary this year, confirming that their pronouns are they/them. In an Instagram post in September, they wrote: “I’ve decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out. I’m so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I’ve been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but fuck it! I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you.”

Other celebrities who identify as nonbinary include Pose’s Indya Moore, rising star Amandla Stenberg and Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness (although he prefers he/him pronouns).

Lookups for “they” increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year. Runners-up for Word of the Year include quid pro quo (no explanation necessary), impeach (again, no surprises there), and crawdad (an aquatic animal that features in the title of a 2019 New York Times-bestselling book: Where the Crawdads Sing).