There have been attempts to use other contemporary English pronouns to stand-in as a true gender-neutral pronoun, given that English is lacking a commonly-accepted one for adult humans (non-humans and even babies can be referred to as 'it'). Examples of this include 'he/she', 'one', and the singular 'they'.

However, these can be confused with the contemporary pronouns which have been used as stand-ins, and they can at times be awkward to use. Other pronouns exist which can avoid this problem, such as 'thon', which seems to have historically picked up the most momentum, and was in the dictionary as recently as 1964!

Which are the most commonly used gender-neutral pronouns in English around the world today, to be used when referring back to an adult human, that aren't the same as other contemporary pronouns?

  • possible duplicate of Gender neutral pronoun
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 12:22
  • This is not a dupe. That question is talking about a very specific choice between two pronouns.
    – Jez
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 16:22
  • @Jez: I disagree. But even if it isn't a dupe, than it should be closed for other reasons. If you are curious about thon, ask a question about thon.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 17:30
  • 3
    'thon' was an example. This question is clearly about gender-neutral pronouns in general.
    – Jez
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 18:35
  • 1
    Question edited to be more unique.
    – Jez
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


Ze and hir have been around for some time, although they haven't gained much traction in the cis community. There're more listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-neutral_pronoun#Modern_solutions

  • Thanks for pointing out "ze" and "hir". I've often seen "ze" and "hir" used to refer to a particular person who's genderqueer/non-binary. Are these pronouns also used to refer to some generic/hypothetical person whose gender could be anything?
    – jlstrecker
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 16:00

There are no such pronouns in common use in any major dialect of English, though that's not for lack of trying. Since at least the 1850s, various linguistic do-gooders have proposed more than 80 potential gender-neutral pronouns, none of which ever gained traction. A sampling:

thon, thons; ne, nis, nim; hi, hes, hem; e, es, em; ir, iro, im; ip, ips; he'er, him'er, his'er, his'er's; te, tes, tir; shis, shims, shim, shimself; zie , zees, zim, zeeself; per, pers

All of these have the significant drawback of being ridiculous, which is probably the reason singular they is the only option that's come close to mainstream acceptance. Until the prescriptivists accept singular they, we're stuck with rewriting to eliminate the gender-specific pronoun.

  • 3
    Voted you down because of your random subjective assertion that these proposals are 'ridiculous'. I think several of them would work just fine.
    – Jez
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 15:12
  • 2
    @Jez: The subjective assertion is a problem with how you asked the question.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 17:32
  • 1
    @Jez: Sadly your question is to subjective, and also the 'ridiculous' part of the answer (despite the fact that I agree with the entire sentiment of the answer). Substitute 'ridiculous' with the slightly more objective 'difficult to recognize as English'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 19:43
  • 2
    How is the question too subjective? I'm asking which pronouns are common in English today; this is looking for a purely factual answer.
    – Jez
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 19:52
  • 5
    +1 "Somewhat unusual" would be misleading to beginner ESL students, who might actually use one of these words. Many people, including me, will at least chuckle if decorum permits; this would seem to warrant "ridiculous"—though perhaps jocular would provide a friendlier perspective. Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 0:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.