Merriam-Webster declares ‘they’ its 2019 word of the year

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The word “they” is displayed on a computer screen on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in New York. The language mavens at Merriam-Webster have declared the personal pronoun their word of the year based on a 313 percent increase in look-ups on the company’s search site, Merriam-Webster.com, this year when compared with 2018. Merriam-Webster recently added a new definition to its online dictionary to reflect use of “they” as relating to a person whose gender identity is nonbinary.(AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

NEW YORK (AP) – Merriam-Webster has named the pronoun “they” its 2019 word of the year.

The word and its emergence as a nonbinary alternative to “he” and “she” experienced a 313 percent increase in look-ups on Merriam-Webster.com.

Editor at large Peter Sokolowski says he was surprised by the data but the word has been the subject of a lot of talk this year. Look-ups for “they” spiked in January with the rise of model Oslo Grace on top fashion runways.

In September, the dictionary’s site experienced another big increase in look-ups for “they”when pop star Sam Smith wrote on social media that their preferred pronouns were “they” and “them.”

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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