The word “Latinx” is now officially in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. A somewhat controversial term, Latinx—pronounced luh-TEE- neks the website explains — is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina, intentionally breaking with Spanish’s gendered grammatical tradition of using o or a.
Most commonly used in academic and social media spaces, the term was reportedly first used online in 2014. Now it joins the more than 840 new words added to the popular dictionary.
In a blog post on the dictionary’s website, it references the historical journey to the word and previous attempts to make Latino/a inclusive such as the term [email protected], but, ultimately, still didn’t reflect those outside the gender binary. With Latinx, the “x” signifies something unknown and is used in Latinx to connote unspecified gender, acknowledging those who identify as agender, gender non-conforming, gender fluid, gender questioning, genderqueer and non binary.
There has been mixed reviews as the news hit the web on Wednesday.
Juana María Rodríguez, a queer professor in the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley, tweeted: “Latinx is in the dictionary people. @MerriamWebster”
— Juana María Rodríguez (@RadioRodriguez) September 5, 2018
@inkedmargins tweeted: “Latinx” is now in the dictionary!!!!!!!
Another tweet reads:
— socially isolated civil unrest (@allegriana) September 5, 2018
Jerónimo Saldaña, co-director of the Justice Reform Collaborative at LatinoJustice PRLDEF, announced the news from his Twitter account and several responses questioned the need for the word, even referencing it as a “rebranding” of our identity.
First is was Spanish, then Hispanic and now Latinx. Why keep on rebranding us?
— 702pr (@702PR) September 5, 2018
But Nelson Flores, associate professor in Educational Linguistics at University of Pennsylvania, set the record straight, tweeting:
Queue people complaining that it shouldn’t be in the dictionary because it is not a “real word.”
For the record (1) a word is real when a community of people use it and (2) the role of a dictionary is to describe what people actually do, not prescribe what they should do. https://t.co/U0nHRAALHD
— Nelson Flores (@nelsonlflores) September 5, 2018
“Though Latinx is becoming common in social media and in academic writing, it is unclear whether it will catch on in mainstream use,” the September blog post notes. “Nevertheless, it is gaining noticeable traction among the general public as a gender-inclusive term for Latin Americans of diverse identities and orientations.”