The nonbinary pronoun “they” is officially part of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The dictionary defines “they” as “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary,” along with three earlier definitions of the word.
It also added an example of its usage in a sentence: “I knew certain things about…the person I was interviewing…They had adopted their gender-neutral name a few years ago, when they began to consciously identify as nonbinary—that is, neither male nor female. They were in their late 20s, working as an event planner, applying to graduate school.”
Merriam-Webster previously acknowledged that “they” has been in consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s. Most people continue to use the word this way in casual conversation. But the use of “they” as a nonbinary pronoun is much newer.
“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,” Merriam-Webster wrote in a post. “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 company has evidence of this usage dating back to 1950, and it’s likely that there are even earlier uses out there. It’s becoming more and more commonly accepted. Just last week, singer Sam Smith announced that they now use “they/them” pronouns.
Earlier this year, Merriam-Webster added other LGBTQ-friendly words and phrases, including “gender non-conforming,” “top surgery” and “bottom surgery.”