Merriam Webster Announces ‘They’ as Word of the Year

by Leanna Robinson

The U.S. dictionary Merriam Webster has announced that the gender-neutral singular pronoun ‘they’ is the word of the year for 2019. The word, which only entered the dictionary to be used as a singular term this year, is often used by people whose gender identity is nonbinary.

The singular, nonbinary they was also prominent in the news in the U.S. in 2019, with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal revealing in April during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Equality Act that her child is gender-nonconforming and uses they. The American Psychological Association’s blog officially recommended that singular they be preferred in professional writing over “he or she” when the reference is to a person whose gender is unknown or to a person who prefers they.

Despite its long history in the English language, searches for the word online was up 313% in 2019 over the previous year, indicating a recent surge of the word into common vernacular.

While no runner up word for 2019 was chose, Merriam Webster did note that quid pro quo increased 644% from last year. The phrase, which the dictionary defines as “something given or received for something else,” has been used frequently during the impeachment trials of Donald Trump.