Instagram | @samsmith

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Officially Adds ‘They’ As Non-Binary Pronoun

Social discussion surrounding gender identity has heightened over the last few days since popular singer Sam Smith came out as non-binary and announced that they would exclusively be using they/them/theirs pronouns.

Although the singular 'they' has been grammatically correct since the creation of the English language (just an FYI), in the midst of a lot of confusion regarding its use, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has officially included a definition of "they" as a non-binary pronoun.

If you're thinking to yourself "What's the big deal about pronouns?" then you probably don't mind yours.

Instagram | @mute.ation

Transgender people often go by different pronouns than what they were given at birth in order to alleviate social dysphoria (the emotional and psychological anguish that comes with being socially perceived as a gender you are not).

Say you feel pretty comfortable with he/him pronouns, or haven't really given your he/him pronouns much thought, and one day you go out to lunch and your waitress starts to refer to you as she—how would you feel? You'd likely feel weird, like something's not quite right.

A lot of non-binary people don't feel like he or she pronouns fit them properly.

Instagram | @emporium32

The use of someone's they/them pronouns can make them feel comfortable and valid and safe. Mistakes are bound to happen while you're navigating using that kind of language for the first time, but it's never okay to intentionally mis-gender someone.

"But, doesn't 'they' mean more than one person?"


It can mean more than one person, but it is also used as a singular pronoun. The singular 'they' has been used for hundreds and hundreds of years, long before the term non-binary came about.

This is the Merriam-Webster definition of the word 'they' before the non-binary pronoun definition was added. As you can see, the singular pronoun use is number three. That's always been there!

Celebrity musician Sam Smith recently announced that they will exclusively be using they/them pronouns.

Instagram | @samsmith

They came out as non-binary a couple of months back, but this is the first instance in which they've clarified what their pronouns are.

For someone with such a prominent social following, their announcement was quite the big deal, and helped to provide a lot of non-binary people with proper representation in the music industry.

After Sam's announcement, Merriam-Webster announced that they would be adding a fourth definition to 'they' in their dictionary.

Instagram | @merriamwebster

The definition of "they" now officially includes its use in the context of a singular pronoun for a non-binary person.

It's in the dictionary now folks, you've got no excuse!

But again, you've been using the singular "they" for your whole life.

Instagram | @merriamwebster

When you're talking about someone whose gender you aren't sure of, most of us opt to say "they" rather than the awkward "he/she" anyhow, so what's the difference in this context?

Here's to hoping that Sam's coming out inspires other non-binary folks to feel more comfortable using their pronouns.

Instagram | @samsmith

Isn't it rad when society accepts people for who they really are?

h/t: Merriam-Webster