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% 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."
Some of the other top lookups of 2019 included quid pro quo, impeach, crawdad and exculpate.
The investigation into President Donald Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president brought the term quid pro quo into daily conversations. Merriam-Webster said the term experienced a 644% year-over-year increase of lookups.
The investigation also propelled impeach to the top of this year's list. Merriam-Webster said the largest single spike in definition searches followed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement of an impeachment inquiry.
While Merriam-Webster went with "they" for its 2019 word of the year, Dictionary.com went a different route and chose "existential" as its word of the year. And Oxford Dictionaries picked “climate emergency” as its word of the year, noting usage evidence that reflects the “ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year,” the company said in a statement.