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The non-binary pronoun 'they' has been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary

The non-binary pronoun 'they' has been added to the Merriam-Webster's dictionary. Source: Getty Images

A new definition of 'they' was among 530 new words added to the publisher's online dictionary.

The oldest dictionary publisher in the US has officially recognised the singular use of 'they' as a pronoun for people who identify as non-binary.

On Tuesday, Merriam-Webster announced they would be adding more than 530 new words to their online dictionary, including the definition for 'they'.

"Used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary," the entry reads. 

The term has become increasingly popular in recent years as a pronoun for people who identify as gender diverse or outside the male and female binary.

In the dictionary entry, the word is used in an example 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."

In response to questions on whether 'they', 'their' and 'them' can be used as a singular pronoun, Merriam-Webster said their use as pronouns of indefinite gender have been "well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts". 

The new use for 'they' was added alongside a long list of new words, including the Bechdel test (referring to a criteria used to evaluate movies for their inclusion of women), deep state (an alleged secret governmental network), fatberg (a large mass of fat and solid waste that collects in sewers) and escape room (a game in which people are confined to an areas and given a set amount of time to escape).

A new definition for the word inclusive was also added: “allowing and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability).”

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