Dictionary adds 'they' as a gender pronoun for first time

One of the most popular English language dictionaries has added the gender neutral pronouns ‘they’ and ‘themself’ to refer to non-binary people.

Merriam-Webster has decided to list the term because of the growing number of people who don’t identify as either male or female.

The American dictionary said it has included the new definition because it addresses ‘the complex ways we view ourselves and others and how we all fit in’.

The term has now been expanded so that it can be ‘used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary’.

In a post on its website announcing the decision, Merriam Webster said: ‘The new use of they is direct, and it is for a person whose gender is known, but who does not identify as male or female.’

The dictionary has added 533 new words in the latest update, along with over 4,000 revisions to definitions, pronunciations and information about the historical derivations of words.

The US lexicographers have also decided to add the terms ‘fatberg’, ‘inspo’ and ‘sesh’ to the dictionary.

The decision to include they as a singular pronoun comes after British singer Sam Smith announced that they were non-binary.

The star posted on Twitter last week saying: ‘Today is a good day so here goes. 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 f*** it!’.

Sam said they know people may make mistakes with their pronouns but that ‘all I ask is you please please try’ and that one day they hope to be at a point where they can speak ‘at length about what it means to be non-binary.’

Researchers at the Oxford English Dictionary found that the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun dated back to the fourteenth century.

The earliest example of the specific usage dates back to 1375, where it was used in the medieval romance story William and the Werewolf.

However, Professor Dennis Baron writes on the dictionary’s blog: ‘Since forms may exist in speech long before they’re written down, it’s likely that singular they was common even before the late fourteenth century.

‘That makes an old form even older.’

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