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Not he, not she but ‘they’: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year

The dictionary selects its word of the year based on how frequently a word was looked up.

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 percent increase in look-ups on Merriam-Webster.com.

RELATED: Merriam-Webster declares 'they' its 2019 word of the year

"This is a data-driven process. We’re very committed to that," said Emily Brewster, Senior-Editor at Merriam-Webster.

10News has covered the usage of the word "they" over the course of 2019.

In January, we introduced you to a Florida "theybe" named Sparrow. "Theybies" are babies without a known sex. In an effort to raise their child free of gender stereotypes, Sparrow's parents are concealing the sex of their baby.

"We are in no way prohibiting Sparrow from having a gender and we’re not forcing them to be one gender or another. We are just holding space for the child to lead the conversation and lead the journey about gender," Ari Dennis told 10News back in January.

RELATED: Raising Sparrow: Not a boy or a girl. This Florida family is raising a gender-neutral 'theyby'

In September, Merriam-Webster's site experienced a big increase in look-ups for “they” when pop star Sam Smith wrote on social media that their preferred pronouns were “they” and “them."

Not long after Smith's announcement, the pronoun 'they' was added to the dictionary as a way to refer to people who identify as neither exclusively male or female.

In selecting the 2019 word of the year, Brewster explained Merriam-Webster did not take into account the spike in look-ups that came in September following the dictionary's announcement of the additional definition of they.

RELATED: Getting on board with nonbinary they/them pronouns: Here’s what you need to know

Curiosity over the word, "they" has been growing since 2018.

Brewster explained, "It is unusual that something so common as a personal pronoun is being looked at with any kind of frequency except in this particular case, this pronoun is shifting in meaning in really dramatic ways."

Merriam-Webster's 2018 word of the year was "justice" with "feminism" taking the top spot in 2017.

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