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Merriam-Webster announced Tuesday that it has chosen “they” as the 2019 word of the year.

The singular “they” is a pronoun used to refer to a person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a word that itself was added to the dictionary in September of this year. The gender neutral pronoun is used in place of “he or she”.

And in September of this year, Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Sam Smith announced their decision to use gender neutral pronouns. Smith is far from alone. Around the same time, Merriam-Webster added gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “themself” to the dictionary.

While “they” may be increasingly common in modern language as English speakers strive for more inclusive words, its use as a singular pronoun is not new. As Merriam-Webster writes, “English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years.”

Despite the word’s long history, searches for “they” increased by 313% in 2019 compared to the previous year, according to Merriam-Webster.

While the dictionary didn’t officially select a runner-up for word of the year, it did note that searches for the phrase “quid pro quo” spiked 644% from last year. The Latin phrase, literally translated as “something for something”, is defined by the dictionary as “something given or received for something else” and as “a deal arranging a quid pro quo.” The phrase has come up repeatedly in the impeachment hearing of Donald Trump.

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