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Spivak pronoun

The Spivak pronouns are a proposed set of gender-neutral pronouns in English. They are used as non-sexist language by some people who dislike the more common alternatives “he/she” or singular they.

The (new) Spivak pronouns are formed from the pronoun “they” by dropping the “th”.

There are two variants of the Spivak pronouns in use, as shown in the declension table below.

Subject Object Possessive adjective Possessive pronoun Reflexive pronoun
Male He laughs I hit him His face bled I am his He shaves himself
Female She laughs I hit her Her face bled I am hers She shaves herself
Singular they They laugh I hit them Their face bled I am theirs They shave themself
Spivak (new) Ey laughs I hit em Eir face bled I am eirs Ey shaves emself
Spivak (original) E laughs I hit em Eir face bled I am eirs E shaves eirself


The original pronoun set is a neologism by Michael Spivak, a mathematician-educator who used it in a number of books.

Comparison with other gender-neutral pronouns or constructions

The two most common systems have specific disadvantages:

“he/she”, “him/her”, “his/her”, “his/hers”, “himself/herself”: These constructs are often perceived as awkward and hindering pronounciation.
singular they: This is more pronouncable, but can be ambiguous. It is also awkward to use plural verb forms for a singular person.
Compared with other gender-neutral pronouns, Spivak (new) is easier to learn since the system stems directly from the well-known forms of “they”. Supporters also feel that this derivation makes them more natural than the sie/ze/zie/xe forms.

Where they are used

Spivak is one of the allowable genders on many MUDs and MOOs. Others might include some selection of: male, female, neuter, either, both, splat, plural, egotistical, royal, and 2nd. The selected gender determines how the game engine refers to a player.

On at least one MOO, LambdaMOO, they became standard practice for help texts (“The user may choose any description e likes”), referring to people of unknown gender (“Who was that guest yesterday, eir typing was terrible”), referring to people whose gender was known but without disclosing it (“Yes I’ve met Squiggle. E was nice.”), or of course characters declaring themselves to be of gender Spivak. In recent years (2000 onwards), this usage is declining.

Spivak is also the favoured choice of some people who have written about the subject, such as in Footnotes: Pronouns and in the Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ.

Nomic games, especially on the Internet, often follow the game’s inventor Peter Suber in using Spivak pronouns in their rulesets to easily refer to indefinite players.

Publications employing Spivak pronouns

  • The Joy of TeX, Michael Spivak
  • Comprehensive Introduction to Differential Geometry, Michael Spivak
  • Calculus on Manifolds, Michael Spivak
  • The Paradox of Self-Amendment: A Study of Logic, Law, Omnipotence, and Change, Peter Suber


In the event that E enters standard English, it will be the fourth word of one letter, the others being I, A, and O.

See Also