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The word of the year is…

American dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster has chosen its word of the year: “they”.

Of course, this word is quite old, but this year, it took on another meaning in the mainstream. “They” is now a gender-neutral pronoun that people can choose to be referred to as, as opposed to “he” or “she”.

Some people find this concept appalling or simply too complicated. But funny enough, while the “new” meaning of the word has had its share of controversy, as many language fans (and people with common sense in general) have pointed out, “they” has been used in English to designate a person of indeterminate gender for a really long time – more than 600 years, Merriam-Webster itself has clarified.

Read on to learn more about “they”, the word of the year, as well as the runner-up, which is also a very old word (well, expression) that’s taken on a new meaning.

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Contact Our Writer – Alysa Salzberg

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