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The gender-neutral honorific “Mx” has its own entry in the OED since August 2015, so no one can argue it doesn't exist. According to The Sunday Times, central and local governments have been quietly using this [mysterious] honorific in their documents and forms for at least two years. British government departments, including the NHS (National Health Service); online bank accounts; credit cards; driving licenses; and universities all accept this title.

Jonathan Dent, assistant editor on the OED, said it was the first addition to the accepted stable of honorifics in recent history and demonstrated how the English language is evolving to accommodate an ever–changing society.

“This is an example of how the English language adapts to people's needs, with people using language in ways that suit them rather than letting language dictate identity to them”

Oxford Dictionaries define Mx /məks/ /miks/

A title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female:

Their second example refers to the American ‘transperson’ singer-songwriter and cabaret artist, Justin Vivian Bond. A person who is said to have used the title Mx since 2011

  • To me, Mx Bond embodies the very best kind of girl a boy could ever grow up to become.

Wikipedia claims Mx (/ˈmɪks/ or /ˈmʌks/) ‘is commonly accepted’ and has existed since 1977. The Daily Mail confirms the latter, and says the title first appeared in the US publication ‘Single Parent Magazine’ in 1977. Which makes it an American neologism.

An example from a British Adult Deed Poll Application Form

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Is this honorific used only in the UK? What about Australia, Canada and the US? I found no mention of Mx being adopted in British passports, but if a British citizen visiting one of these countries were to feel ill, or be arrested would that person be allowed to call themselves Mx, instead of Mr or Ms?

Living in Italy I haven't come across anything remotely similar, and none of my friends or family living in the UK have ever mentioned this new gender-neutral title to me, so I was wondering how common is this abbreviation? Is it an abbreviation? Mx is not short for anything, whereas Mr. is short for mister, and Mrs is a contraction of Mistress.

  • How common is Mx?
  • Where and when did you first see Mx being used?
  • How do you pronounce Mx?
  • Will the US follow suit? Or do they have their own gender-neutral honorific?

Bonus Question

  • Meanwhile the only other dictionary which lists Mx is Urban Dictionary, its entry is dated August 18, 2011. In a world where one constantly hears debates about whether a term is a real word or not, how significant is Oxford Dictionaries decision to include Mx in their online dictionary?
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    All comments nuked. Comments are to be used to request clarification, not to discuss the question, or to bicker. – Andrew Leach Nov 8 '15 at 21:08
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    I am Australian, and I admit I have never heard this used here as an honorific. I do think that given how gender identity and gender variance is becoming more accepted, that the use of a gender neutral term will be adopted. Whether or not it is "Mx" is yet to be seen, but it does make some sense to me :) – Jane S Nov 8 '15 at 21:16
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    I'm also Australian, but being in social circles with a lot of queer young adults, I hear about this honorific a lot. Mostly in the form of "Oh wow, XYZ company/government service allows me to put my gender identity on my form!" – AlbeyAmakiir Nov 8 '15 at 22:31
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    @AlbeyAmakiir How do your friends pronounce 'Mx'? – Jekowl Nov 8 '15 at 23:21
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    @Jekowl A couple of ways. Sometimes "M-X", sometimes "mix", although occasionally they follow the same pattern as "mr" -> "mister" with "mixter", but I haven't heard that as often. Granted, I more often see it written down than spoken. – AlbeyAmakiir Nov 9 '15 at 0:08
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In the UK it is almost universally an option to use either 'Mx' or no honorific. Most people will miss this, (no pun intended) because they wouldn't ask about it, however, only once in the last 2 years have I met with a situation where I had to put down a gendered honorific. This is possibly because most organisations that ask for your honorific tend to be of a more formal nature, and so are well thought out.

Places that use 'Mx' have included banks, train & flight companies, loyalty cards, utility companies and components of the NHS.

Not all organisations deal with this issue using 'Mx' though. As I mentioned earlier, some organisations are happy to simply omit honorifics, both my Internet provider and my place of work deal with it this way. As I am only drawing from personal experience, I don't know which is the more common approach.

As best I know, the only significant place where you still are compelled to identify your gender is your passport. Although the document uses the label sex, it probably means gender as a CGR is what's required to change it. A UK passport does not record an honorific, so it does not really count in this question.

As for when I first saw it, I can't honestly remember. The oldest document I can find it on at the moment is my rail card, which is only from 2013. The last time I remember its absence, however, is Facebook, who did not update their options until 2014.

I pronounce it mix as the few times I have heard someone else say it (when signing up for something over the phone) that is how it's been pronounced. It's an unusual thing to actually need to say.

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    One last question, how do you pronounce it: mix, misc or mux? Or don't you pronounce it? – Mari-Lou A Nov 8 '15 at 21:43
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    @Mari-LouA No, not much of a stir :) but I suppose that's understandable given that the number of transgender people who are 'out' is currently around 0.5% of the population. This might lead us to estimate that only something like 1 in 400 (half the number of trans folk) actualy wish to avoid the traditional honorifics – Jekowl Nov 8 '15 at 21:46
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    @Mari-LouA I pronounce it mix, but it's an unusual thing to actually need to say – Jekowl Nov 8 '15 at 21:46
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    (Also UK) I haven't tended to notice it on forms, not having any need to scroll past "Mr". I'm no expert in gender issues though I have read a little, and people using it in writing wouldn't surprise me. In speech the baseline honorifics (Mr, Ms, Mx...) are easily avoided and most more senior titles (Dr, Rev...) are gender neutral anyway, so I've never heard it spoken. – Chris H Nov 9 '15 at 8:08
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    @Mari-LouA Hmm, a little bit maybe, but the fact it's actually adopted and used by actual, major mainstream organisations seems more significant to me. To me that's the sign that it's now practice not theory, and the OED including it is just confirmation. The OED are very much about reflecting English as it is used not prescribing how English should be used – user56reinstatemonica8 Nov 9 '15 at 9:15
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I've personally never heard Mx or seen it used, anyway according to M-W it is not clear if and when it will catch on in the U.S.

UPDATE

The honorific was added to the M-W online dictionary in September 2017

  • Last month, news broke that the Oxford English Dictionary added a new honorific for inclusion in their dictionaries: the gender-neutral Mx, used as a title for those who do not identify as being of a particular gender, and for those who are transgender — or, for people who simply don't want to be identified by gender.

  • Pronounced to sound like mix or mux, the title Mx. (which, like other honorifics, is styled without the period in British English) is used increasingly on various official forms in the UK, including driver's licenses and banking documents.

  • Although the earliest print evidence of Mx. is from a 1977 issue of an American magazine called Single Parent, the title has not seen much official or published use in the US. It did, however, appear twice in recent days in The New York Times: a June 4th article noted Mx. as someone's preferred honorific, and a June 5th article all about Mx. made it clear that the June 4th use was an exception. The title simply isn't familiar enough to the newspaper's readers to be fully adopted.

  • It's not clear whether or when Mx. will catch on in the US. The timeline for such developments can be long, as the title Ms. taught us not all that long ago. Coined in 1901, the now-commonplace Ms. wasn't fully adopted by The New York Times until 1986.

From The New York Times:

  • The adoption of the term in Britain has been easier because the idea of more than two genders is more accepted there than in the United States, so Mx. has more support there, said Kate Bornstein, the author of “Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us.”

  • “The U.K. is ahead of the U.S. in terms of radical sexuality and gender, they’re far ahead,” the author said.

  • An article this week in The New York Times referred to a speaker using the honorific Mx. However, Philip B. Corbett, a Times editor who oversees the newspaper’s style manual and usage rules, called that appearance of Mx. in The Times an exception. “I don’t think we’re likely to adopt Mx. in the near future,” he said. “It remains too unfamiliar to most people, and it’s not clear when or if it will emerge as a widely adopted term.”

  • Linguistic experts say it is harder to change usage habits of words uttered frequently in speech, such as “she” and “he.” But a realignment in honorifics may be more quickly achieved because courtesy titles are less often spoken than written, like in the completion and mailing of government, health care and financial documents, as well as in newspapers and other media publications.

  • Katherine C. Martin, the head of United States dictionaries for the Oxford University Press, said that she and her colleagues were surprised by the huge, mostly positive reaction to online reports regarding the incorporation of the title. She said Mx. was on the “new-words watch list” for Ox

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    +1) I have just got conviction that this word will never be used while I am alive. The word itself sounds like a complete nonsense and unnecessary word. It might sound discriminating to people whose blood is Mixed. – user140086 Nov 8 '15 at 18:46
  • I don't think the Vatican will ever consider a Mr X, ops sorry, I mean the Italian government. :) – user66974 Nov 8 '15 at 19:10
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    DC area: anyone who reads the Washington Post has been exposed to this word and is not surprised by it. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Nov 8 '15 at 22:36
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A bit of history. Engineered semantic units in language virtually always fail. I'm not sure any have really stuck.

"Ms." caught on because as women entered the workforce in management in high numbers, secretaries (managers and information workers back then didn't do their own typing) got tired of having to call up the secretary of every woman they needed to address a correspondence to and ask if honorific should be "Miss" or "Mrs." A silent accord among secretaries caused "Ms." to be the standard. Don't see the same practical drive behind "Mx." which I've never heard of.

At present, most people know the gender of the person they address and increasingly, people have begun using informal first names. Also, I've noted I end up addressing a collective of a company or teams and so use just a generic "Greetings" which replaces the old "To whom it may concern."

I have noticed that a lot of people under 30 have informally begun to use the Japanese "San" and "Chan" suffixes, which they absorbed from the world wide explosion of anime in the last twenty years. "San" is purely gender neutral and "Chan" usually is. It's possible these may become standards at least in English, which easily adds loan words.

It's much like the way the word "OK" spread from the US to every language in the world owing to US military getting scattered all over the planet in WWII and the Cold War combined with the dominance of Hollywood 1930s-1970s.

Most non-Japanese are unaware of the several levels of group status and dominance are encoded in the language, so I doubt that will cause any problems.

If not the "san" suffix, I would put my money on something equally unplanned and unexpected. Languages are organic structures that evolve through selection pressures, they can't be engineered from the top down.

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    "Mx." isn't "engineered from the top down" though, it has arisen from a concrete need for non-binary people to identify ourselves in a context where a more formal title is appropriate. What do you suggest as an alternative? I think the reason some people find that "there's no practical need" is because queer and non-binary people have been largely invisible, forced/urged into hiding, and without voice historically, so people think we don't exist. With social progression comes visibility comes the need for language to evolve. – sara Jun 9 '16 at 17:31

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