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Collins Dictionary recognises ‘non-binary’ after year of ‘changes’

Sam Smith was among the first celebrities to ask the public to refer to them using they/them pronouns.

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Collins Dictionary has recognised the word “non-binary”, whilst also naming “climate strike” as its Word of the Year 2019.

The additions mark a year in which Sam Smith came out as non-binary and 16-year-old Greta Thunberg launched a global environmental movement.

The dictionary said it added the term “non-binary” in recognition of “changes in how people relate to each other and define themselves”.

A person who identifies as non-binary does not define themselves exclusively as masculine or feminine‍ and generally prefers they/them pronouns, rather than he/she.

Extinction Rebellion protests
16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses Extinction Rebellion demonstrators in London (Victoria Jones/PA)

Collins defines non-binary, which can also be spelled nonbinary, as “relating to a gender or sexual identity that does not conform to the binary categories of male or female, heterosexual or homosexual”.

Pop star Smith came out as non-binary this year, sparking a debate over gender and sexuality, and was among the first celebrities to ask the public to refer to them using they/them pronouns.

Other stars who identify as non-binary include Me Too campaigner Rose McGowan, Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness, drag queen Courtney Act and musician Grimes.

Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevingne, however, identify as genderfluid, which differs from non-binary in that the person does not identify as having a fixed gender.

Q Awards 2019 – London
Rose McGowan on the red carpet at the Q Awards 2019 (Ian West/PA)

LGBT charity Stonewall’s director of campaigns Laura Russell hailed the move to recognise the term.

She told the PA news agency: “It’s great that Collins will officially be adding non-binary to their dictionary.

“Non-binary people have always existed in every community, so it’s important more organisations and people use language that includes everyone and recognises who they are.”

In a similar move, Collins has recognised the term bopo, short for body positivity, a movement which advocates people being proud of their bodies whatever their shape or size.

Extinction Rebellion protests
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators in London (Victoria Jones/PA)

Climate strikes are part of a snowballing movement sparked by Thunberg’s school strikes outside the Swedish parliament.

The term was first registered by Collins’ lexicographers in November 2015 when the first event of its kind took place during the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

The term was used on average 100 times more in 2019 than the previous year.

Alongside “climate strike”, Collins has also added the term “rewilding”, the practice of returning land to a wild state.

A slate of recent political terms have also been recognised.

“Double down” describes those who “refuse to give ground” rather than concede a mistake, while cancelled is defined as “publicly ceasing to acknowledge a person, organisation, etc, esp on social media, in order to express disapproval of their activities or opinions”.

The term “influencer”, the TV genre of “hopepunk” and the digital imaging technique of “deepfakes” also feature.

All the words of the year can be found on CollinsDictionary.com, and will be considered for future print editions.