The well-known French dictionary Le Robert has made a move toward inclusion by adding an entry for the non-binary third-person pronouns iel (singular) and iels (plural) last month.
The definition reads “Third person subject personal pronoun—singular and plural—used to refer to a person of any gender.” It also includes alternative spellings ielle and ielles.
French, being a gendered language, didn’t have gender-neutral pronouns before the past decade, and instead would use either il (he) or elle (she) and their plural forms to refer to people as well as objects because every noun in French is also assigned a grammatical gender (whereas in English most nouns are gender-neutral and are attributed the word “it”).
“We looked at statistics showing that many people were looking up the world ‘iel,’ so we thought it made sense to give them an answer,” explains Le Robert editorial director Marie- Hélène Drivaud to the French LGBTQ magazine TETU.
While there are other gender-neutral words in circulation such as the object pronoun ellui, Drivaud said that the decision to go with iel is because it “seemed much more [frequently used] than the others,” and that other terms have yet to “stablize.”
Other changes the dictionary has made surrounding gender and gender identity include adding the word transphobie (transphobia) and updating the definitions for genre (gender) and transition.