\ ˈt͟hā How to pronounce they (audio) \

Definition of they

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : those ones : those people, animals, or things They dance well. What do they want to do? They aren't as popular as they once were.
2 used to refer to people in a general way or to a group of people who are not specified You know what they say.People can do what they want.They say the trial could go on for weeks.He's as lazy as they come.
3 used with an indefinite third person singular antecedent No one has to go if they don't want to.Everyone knew where they stood …— E. L. Doctorow
4 used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary (see nonbinary sense c) I knew certain things about … the person I was interviewing.… They had adopted their gender-neutral name a few years ago, when they began to consciously identify as nonbinary — that is, neither male nor female. They were in their late 20s, working as an event planner, applying to graduate school.— Amy Harmon

the Y


Definition of the Y (Entry 2 of 2)

US, informal
: the YMCA (an international organization originally for young men that provides social programs, a place for athletic activities, etc., for the people in a community) or the YWCA (a similar international organization for the people and especially the women in a community) also : the building owned and operated by the YMCA or the YWCA I'm going to the Y after work tonight.

Can they be used as an indefinite subject?: Usage Guide


They used as an indefinite subject (sense 2) is sometimes objected to on the grounds that it does not have an antecedent. Not every pronoun requires an antecedent, however. The indefinite they is used in all varieties of contexts and is standard.

Can they, their, them, and themselves be used as singular pronouns?: Usage Guide


They, their, them, themselves: English lacks a common-gender third person singular pronoun that can be used to refer to indefinite pronouns (such as everyone, anyone, someone). Writers and speakers have supplied this lack by using the plural pronouns. and every one to rest themselves betake — William Shakespeare I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly — Jane Austen it is too hideous for anyone in their senses to buy — W. H. Auden The plural pronouns have also been put to use as pronouns of indefinite number to refer to singular nouns that stand for many persons. 'tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear the speech — William Shakespeare a person can't help their birth — W. M. Thackeray no man goes to battle to be killed. — But they do get killed — G. B. Shaw The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts. In recent years, these pronouns have also been adopted by individuals whose gender identity is nonbinary, as illustrated in sense 4 above.

First Known Use of they


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for they


Middle English, from Old Norse their, masculine plural demonstrative & personal pronoun; akin to Old English thæt that

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Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for they

The first known use of they was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for they



English Language Learners Definition of they

: those people, animals, or things
used to refer to people in a general way or to a group of people who are not specified
: he or she


\ ˈt͟hā How to pronounce they (audio) \

Kids Definition of they

: those individuals : those ones

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More from Merriam-Webster on they

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with they

Spanish Central: Translation of they

Nglish: Translation of they for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of they for Arabic Speakers

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