pro·​noun ˈprō-ˌnau̇n How to pronounce pronoun (audio)
plural pronouns : any of a small set of words (such as I, she, he, you, it, we, or they) in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context
pronouns plural : the third person personal pronouns (such as he/him, she/her, and they/them) that a person goes by
What are your pronouns?
"I'm Jo, my pronouns are she/her." "I'm Jade, my pronouns are they/them."
… many people with nonbinary genders use "they" and "their" pronouns, although language and gender expression vary widely. Lucy Brisbane

Did you know?

What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns refer to either a noun that has already been mentioned or to a noun that does not need to be named specifically.

The most common pronouns are the personal pronouns, which refer to the person or people speaking or writing (first person), the person or people being spoken to (second person), or other people or things (third person). Like nouns, personal pronouns can function as either the subject of a verb or the object of a verb or preposition: "She likes him, but he loves her." Most of the personal pronouns have different subject and object forms:

pronoun table

There are a number of other types of pronouns. The interrogative pronouns—particularly what, which, who, whom, and whose—introduce questions for which a noun is the answer, as in "Which do you prefer?"

Possessive pronouns refer to things or people that belong to someone. The main possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs.

The four demonstrative pronounsthis, that, these, and those—distinguish the person or thing being referred to from other people or things; they are identical to the demonstrative adjectives.

Relative pronouns introduce a subordinate clause, a part of a sentence that includes a subject and verb but does not form a sentence by itself. The main relative pronouns are that, which, who, whom, what, and whose.

Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of a sentence or clause and are formed by adding -self or -selves to a personal pronoun or possessive adjective, as in myself, herself, ourselves, and itself.

Indefinite pronouns, such as everybody, either, none, and something, do not refer to a specific person or thing, and typically refer to an unidentified or unfamiliar person or thing.

The words it and there can also be used like pronouns when the rules of grammar require a subject but no noun is actually being referred to. Both are usually used at the beginning of a sentence or clause, as in "It was almost noon" and "There is some cake left." These are sometimes referred to as expletives.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Lawyers for Anderson Lee Aldrich, who identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronoun they according to a filing by their attorney, waived a reading of the charges against them during the five-minute hearing. Alicia A. Caldwell And Adolfo Flores, WSJ, 23 Nov. 2022 One of the key elements was to remove the requirement for its people to wear gendered uniform options and offer pronoun badges for both customers and employees. Luciana Paulise, Forbes, 11 Oct. 2022 If parents actually want their child to be able to change a pronoun or their name or use a bathroom, if parents choose that, then legally that's what the schools will do. Emma Colton, Fox News, 9 Oct. 2022 For example, nonbinary people may use the pronoun elle instead of the masculine él or the feminine ella. Samantha Chery, Washington Post, 1 Oct. 2022 Optional pronoun badges will also become available for crew and passengers. Toyin Owoseje, CNN, 28 Sep. 2022 For many who are transgender, that language can be uniquely distressing when they are misgendered (that is, identified by the wrong gender pronoun or title). Z Paige Lerario, Scientific American, 19 Sep. 2022 For example, instead of being called Her Majesty’s Courts, the pronoun will change, and the courts will be known as His Majesty’s Courts. Rachel Elbaum, NBC News, 9 Sep. 2022 Twitter and TikTok also have specific policies against intentionally misgendering, using the wrong pronoun to describe someone or deadnaming, which involves reviving a transgender person’s name from before the person transitioned to a new identity. Amanda Seitz,, 13 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pronoun.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin pronomin-, pronomen, from pro- for + nomin-, nomen name — more at pro-, name

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pronoun was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near pronoun

Cite this Entry

“Pronoun.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


pro·​noun ˈprō-ˌnau̇n How to pronounce pronoun (audio)
: a word that is used as a substitute for a noun

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