Posted on December 10, 2019 at 7:57 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is the shortest one so far this season: they.

But its brevity belies its complexity.

For years, “they” (and “them”) have been used — to the chagrin of some, but not all, language geeks — in place of “she” and “he” when gender is either unknown or unnecessary.

More recently, though, “they” and “them” are being used to refer to people whose gender identity is nonbinary or to people who wish to show support to the nonbinary community.

And as a result, Merriam-Webster says, the dictionary saw a 313% year-over-year increase in lookups for “they” this past year.

Check out the runners-up for word of the year in Merriam-Webster’s blog post, and refresh your memory on which words, Oxford Dictionaries, and Collins Dictionary chose this year.

Categories: Today in Books

Tagged As: Just for fun, Language

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