Non-binary ‘they’ is Merriam-Webster word of 2019

Sam Smith recently revealed a preference for ‘they/them’ pronouns. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: The pronoun “they”, used by non-binary people who identify as neither male nor female, was named word of the year by US dictionary Merriam-Webster on Tuesday.

In the English language, more and more people are exercising their right to choose the pronoun by which they are identified, regardless of their sex at birth – such as “they” instead of “she” or “he”.

Two months ago, the dictionary added the word “they” as a non-binary pronoun that can refer to just one person.

“There’s no doubt that its use is established in the English language, which is why it was added to the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary this past September,” the website said, adding that searches for “they” jumped 313% in a year.

Non-binary people are enjoying increased representation on television and in pop culture. Among them is British artiste Sam Smith, who recently revealed a preference for “they/them” pronouns “after a lifetime of being at war with my gender”.

Tech giant Apple has added “neutral” emojis that don’t distinguish between gender to the latest version of its operating system.