Last updated: 5/18/22
What are Neopronouns?
Pronouns are the words we use to refer to ourselves and others and are an important part of our daily lives. In English, the most common personal pronouns are he/him/his and she/her/hers, which are typically used to refer to people who identify their gender (identity) as masculine or feminine, respectively. They/them/theirs is another common set of pronouns that is used by many non-binary people.
Neopronouns are also pronouns, and include those pronouns besides the ones most commonly used in a particular language. As one’s pronouns are ultimately a reflection of their personal identity, the number and types of (neo)pronouns a person may use is limitless.
Examples of neopronoun sets include: xe/xir/xirs, ze/zir/zirs and fae/faer/faers.
On this page you will find answers for several common questions about neopronouns as well as a table listing the conjugations of several common neopronouns.
Neopronouns are used much in the same way other pronouns are used.
For example, take the neopronoun xe/xir/xirs (which parallels, respectively, she / her/ hers).
Much like you would say “I saw her yesterday, and she said the book was hers,” you would say
“I saw xir yesterday, and xe said the book was xirs.”
For the neopronoun ze/zir/zirs you would say:
“Ze will be arriving soon, and bringing zir famous carrot cake, which was zirs grandma’s recipe!”
For the neopronoun fae/faer/faers, you would say:
I asked faer what fae thought of the movie.
Although the term “neopronouns” suggests pronouns that were recently developed, their use has been recorded for several centuries. During the 12th century, the Old English gender pronouns “he” and “heo” naturally evolved to a near indistinguishable pronunciation, which eventually led to the adoption of “she” as a feminine pronoun. The gender-neutral pronoun “ou” was recorded by William H. Marshall in 1789 and traced back to the gender-neutral pronoun “a” in Middle English.
From 1934 to 1961, the Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary recognized the gender-neutral pronoun “thon,” a contraction of the phrase “that one,” which was coined by Charles Crozat Converse in 1858.
In the 1990s, the early online community LambdaMOO allowed users to choose the gender-neutral pronoun set E/Em/Eir, called Spivak pronouns after the mathematician Michael Spivak.
The English language has evolved over centuries and continues to evolve even in the present. Neopronouns are another example of this evolution and a step towards a society where people can more fully express all parts of themselves.
People who use neopronouns may prefer not to be addressed with gendered honorifics such as "Ms." /"Mr." / "Mrs." As an alternative, many neopronoun users use "Mx." as an honorific, as in "Mx. Jones."
Similarly, instead of Sir or Ma'am, many use “Zir” as in “Thank you, Zir” or “Yes, Zir.”
When you first meet someone, it’s best to avoid assuming their pronouns. Instead, create opportunities for them to share their pronouns by first sharing your own. For example, one might introduce themselves by saying:
“Hi! My name’s Amelia and my pronouns are she/her/hers. It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
Still, others may experiment with using new sets of pronouns. Anyone can experiment with using different pronouns for themselves as a way to further explore their gender identity. Just like other aspects of a person’s life, someone’s gender identity and expression may evolve over time. Exploring your gender identity and expression can be a healthy way to better understand your own sense of gender and find new aspects of yourself that you may find enjoyable.
You should always use someone’s correct pronouns, even when they are not around, unless they specifically request that you not do so for reasons such as safety or privacy. When someone chooses to use neopronouns, they are expressing their authentic selves, and deserve our respect. The experience of being misgendered – having someone use the incorrect pronouns to refer to you – can be uncomfortable and hurtful. The experience of accidentally misgendering someone can be difficult for both parties. Neopronouns are a wonderful expression of our society’s diversity and using the correct pronouns for someone is a great way to show your allyship.
Some people may also use multiple sets of pronouns (ex. she/they, he/she, they/fae) at all times or in certain situations. Those who use multiple sets of pronouns often feel it is necessary to express different aspects of their gender identity. When you meet someone who uses multiple pronoun sets, you may kindly ask their preferences for when and how to use each of their pronouns.
If you make a mistake, it’s best to quickly apologize and move on with the conversation. When you hear someone else misgender someone, you may also correct them so that they are more likely to use the correct pronouns in the future.
Using someone’s pronouns may take practice, especially if that person previously used different pronouns or if they are using pronouns that you are unfamiliar with. The best way to avoid using incorrect pronouns for someone is to simply take a moment before speaking or writing to remember how they refer to themselves. With enough use of the correct pronouns, it can become a habit that requires little effort to get right. The payoff will be increased comfort and friendliness between you and those you interact with.
According to a 2020 report by The Trevor Project, among LGBTQ+ youth in the United States (ages 13-24), 4% use neopronouns. Adults also report using neopronouns. In fact, 2% of adults in the 2021 LGBTQ+ Community Survey use various neopronouns including Ey/Em/Eir, Ze/Hir/Hirs, Ze/Zir/Zirs or Xe/Xem/Xyrs.
Anyone can use neopronouns, but neopronouns are especially popular in the autistic community. Autism is a neurotype, which means autistic folks’ brains are wired differently than allistics’ (non-autistics) brains. It changes the way that they experience the world around them, as well as how they interact with it.
Since autistic folks experience the world differently from allistic folks, this can also affect how autistic vs. allistic people present or experience their gender. For autistic people, their sensory experiences, emotional expressions, and atypical social skills all play a role in how they perceive their gender identities or how they express them. In many ways, their autism is not separate from their gender.
Similarly, since neopronouns break the mold of traditional pronouns, many autistic folks who experience their gender in this unique way, or who wish to express their gender differently, opt to use neopronouns.
Of course, neopronouns are not limited to just autistic folks. Anyone can express their gender in nonconforming ways and use neopronouns to further express that. But neopronouns have high usage in the autistic community due to the different ways autistic people interpret and engage with themselves and others.
Some neopronouns users may adopt nounself pronouns, which are pronouns referring to pre-existing words. Nounself pronoun users often choose pronouns based on objects or ideas that they have a strong personal connection to. For others, nounself pronouns may also be a reflection of their gender identity.
It may help to see this used in a sentence. In the sentence "She brought the coat for herself, which was her grandmother's coat," the person uses she/her pronouns. If the person doesn't identify with pronouns like these but instead uses the word Kit to identify, you would simply say "Kit brought the coat for kitself, which was kit's grandmother's coat."
When thinking about gender identity, many people think of gender as somewhere on a spectrum of masculinity and femininity. But xenogender is used by some people who feel their gender is neither masculine nor feminine and not related to the understanding of these binary identities. Like nounself pronouns, xenogender may use objects or ideas as metaphors to describe their gender.
The beauty of gender and language lies in their unlimited potential for expressing our truest selves. Xenogenders and nounself pronouns are innovative ways for people to express the fullness of their identities.
Neopronouns are not just an English invention. In fact, many neopronouns in other languages resemble the English “they/them.”
While the definition of neopronouns for English is “anything other than he/she/they,” the definition worldwide is “anything other than the conventional pronouns of that language.” Since many languages do not have a singular form of “they/them,” or any gender neutral pronouns, people are creating neopronouns similar to the English “they/them.”
Many Indo European languages such as English, German, and Spanish, as well as other languages, have gendered endings and articles, as well as gendered pronouns. In these languages, no options exist for singular third-person gender neutral pronouns, so people started creating them. Neopronouns exist in just about every language that has a non-binary speaker!
Despite moves toward gender neutral pronouns, many languages still conjugate things on the basis of singular or plural pronouns. This is what makes it awkward for these languages to use their plural “they/them” in the singular form like in English. Plus, wouldn’t English neopronouns sound funny in other languages?
The great thing about neopronouns is that they are not just for English, and the neopronouns that are created to sound good in English aren’t the only neopronouns that exist. There are neopronouns that exist just in other languages. Neopronouns in other gendered languages are created with the grammar and pronunciation of that language in mind. Let’s look at German for an example.
One of the most popular neopronouns in English is Ze/Zir. In German, the letter Z makes more of a “ts” sound, whereas the letter S makes more of a “z” sound. Because of this, Ze/Zir in German would sound more like “Tse/Tsir,” which doesn’t fit the general flow of pronunciation. Usually, “ts” sounds are in the middle or at the end of words. This is one example of how English neopronouns don’t translate over into other languages.
To combat this, many German individuals have combined the word sie (which means “she”) and er (which means “he”) to create sier. This neopronoun has been created in a way that will conjugate with the other third person singular pronouns. It follows all German conjugational and case rules.
How would you use this? Instead of saying, “Sie will verreisen” (she wants to travel) or “Sie packt ihren Koffer” (she is packing her suitcase), you say, “Sier will verreisen,” or “Sier packt seisen Koffer.” This pronoun is designed to be used with proper German grammar and pronunciations.
This neopronoun is a great example of how even the newest of pronouns can be created in a way that still works for the complex grammar of different languages.
Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, and French speakers are creating similar forms with neopronouns such as elle, hen, avam/ivam, and iel. Some languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew that have gendered forms of “you,” have even been using different forms of “you” as well as different third person pronouns. Mandarin Chinese has even begun using the Latin alphabet to create their own neopronouns that have even become common on national television ads.
Neopronouns are diverse and different in every language, but every world language is adaptable enough to fit them so that everyone’s gender can be validated through our words.
|Base Pronouns||Subject Pronouns||Object Pronouns||Possessive Adjectives||Possessive Pronouns||Reflexive Pronouns|
|They||They ran||I spoke with them||Their eyes grew wide||The cat is theirs||They take care of themself|
|Ze/zir||Ze ran||I spoke with zir||Zir eyes grew wide||The cat is zirs||Ze takes care of zirself|
|Ze/hir||Ze ran||I spoke with hir||Hir eyes grew wide||The cat is hirs||Ze takes care of hirself|
|Xe||Xe ran||I spoke with xem||Xyr eyes grew wide||The cat is xyrs||Xe takes care of xemself|
|Ey||Ey ran||I spoke with em||Eir eyes grew wide||The cat is eirs||Ey takes care of emself|
|E||E ran||I spoke with em||Eir eyes grew wide||The cat is eirs||E takes care of emself|
|Ae||Ae ran||I spoke with aer||Aer eyes grew wide||The cat is aers||Ae takes care of aerself|
|Fae||Fae ran||I spoke with faer||Faer eyes grew wide||The cat is faers||Fae takes care of faerself|
|Ve||Ve ran||I spoke with ver||Ver eyes grew wide||The cat is vers||Ve takes care of verself|
|Ne||Ne ran||I spoke with nem||Nir eyes grew wide||The cat is nirs||Ne takes care of Nemself|
|Per||Per ran||I spoke with per||Per eyes grew wide||The cat is pers||Per takes care of Perself|