The Glasgow-based Collins Dictionary has recognized the word “nonbinary,” recognizing recent “changes in how people relate to each other and define themselves.”
Noting that the term originated in mathematics and science, dictionary writers noted that the definition has shifted over time to relate far more frequently to “an identity that does not belong to the two previously accepted categories of male or female.”
Acceptable abbreviations include “NB” and “enby,” according to the dictionary.
There has been a marked increase in the term’s use in 2019, driven in part by singer Sam Smith’s announcement this year that they identify as nonbinary. Speaking with The Good Place actress and journalist Jameela Jamil, Smith explained: “I’ve always had a little bit of a war going within my body and my mind.”
Months later, Smith wrote on Instagram that they use “they/them” pronouns.
“I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out,” Smith wrote at the time. “I’m so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I’ve been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but fuck it!”
Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness also told Out that he is nonbinary this year, although he prefers to use masculine pronouns.
“The older I get, the more I think that I’m nonbinary — I’m gender nonconforming,” he said. “Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman. I don’t really — I think my energies are really all over the place. Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I’m here for it.”
Although research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health indicates that recognizing a person’s name and pronouns reduce their rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, the duo faced some backlash following the announcements. British morning show host Piers Morgan lashed out at Smith, accusing them of being part of what “young people” are doing to “feel different” as part of a “trend or a fad or a craze.”
“Nonbinary” was among numerous terms considered for word of the year, but “climate change” was ultimately voted the winner. Also considered for the honor were “rewilding,” a term for returning land to a state that does not involve human alteration, as well as “double down,” “influencer,” and “deepfakes.”
Collins Dictionary also recognized the word “bopo,” meaning body positivity.
While those words appear in the online version of the dictionary, they’re still under consideration for print. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced in September, however, that “nonbinary” would be included in its print volume.
This isn’t the first time that Collins has been on the cutting edge. When it was first published in 1979, it was the first British dictionary to employ digital databases, allowing editors to work collaboratively on words instead of requiring a single person to be responsible for each individual word.