The definition of the non-binary pronoun "iel" in Le Petit Robert is controversial

The definition that is controversial.

© Le Petit Robert

Text by: RFI Follow |

Thomas Bourdeau Follow

3 min

The pronoun which makes it possible to include a non-binary category of people, "iel", has just gained its definition in Le Petit Robert online.

Reflection of a new societal use, apart from activism, the prestigious dictionary defends itself.

However, in two stages - all that is more binary - three movements, the controversy took hold.


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Iel, iels


Personal pronoun subject of the third person singular and plural, used to refer to a person of any gender.

Here is the new definition added in Le Petit Robert online which is controversial. This contraction of “he” and “she”, two personal masculine and feminine pronouns, was initiated by the LGBTQI + community to designate non-binary people who do not recognize themselves exclusively in a gender - female or male - or neither. .

The meaning of the word" iel "cannot be understood by reading it alone - in the jargon of lexicographers, it is said that it is not" transparent "-, and it seemed useful to us to specify its meaning for those and those who come across it, whether they wish to use it or on the contrary… reject it,

”explains Charles Bimbenet, general manager of Éditions Le Robert.

"Inclusive writing is not the future of the French language"

Immediate rejection, controversy ... The political class has shown zeal in front of this non-binary pronoun, like the LREM deputy of Indre, François Jolivet, who appeals to the French Academy and cries to "wokism", scarecrow to fashion to denounce the abuses of a movement born in the United States which, originally, was interested in all forms of discrimination, whether racial, sexual or religious. The deputy was quickly supported by the Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer who assures that inclusive writing is not the future of the French language.

I obviously support @ FJolivet36's protest against #PetitRobert

Inclusive writing is not the future of the French language.

Even though our students are in the process of consolidating their fundamental knowledge, they cannot have this for reference:

- Jean-Michel Blanquer (@jmblanquer) November 16, 2021

No offense to some, Le Robert was not suddenly affected by acute '' wokism '', a '' non-transparent '' word whose definition we promise you soon

 ," underlines, with humor, Charles Bimbenet.

Defining the words that mean the world is helping to understand it better.

On the contrary, cannot the debate take a little height and scope as explained by Marc-Olivier Loiseau, researcher specializing in the history of language: “ 

This can open the discussion on non-binarity, like this was the case for the feminization of trade names.

Talking about it led to debates on the place of women in the world of work.



Robert's mission is to observe and report on the evolution of a changing and diverse French language.

Defining the words that mean the world is helping to understand it better.


► Also to listen: Wokism: advance or threat?

Les Éditions Le Robert reacted to the controversy over the introduction of the word “iel” in their online dictionary and shed light on the criteria and decision-making circuits that govern the integration of words into the dictionary. co / viln4m2eQh # iel #PetitRobert

- Le Robert (@LeRobert_com) November 17, 2021

What this pronoun


reveals and highlights, is taken head on and rejected by some:

The Le Petit Robert dictionary incorporates the pronoun woke "iel".

When will the announcement of a new more inclusive name “”?

Let's defend our language against these ridiculous fanatics of deconstruction and boycott the collaborators who submit!

- N. Dupont-Aignan (@dupontaignan) November 17, 2021

Invectives, a hobbyhorse from another age?

#Iel: we must boycott Le Petit Robert and turn to other dictionaries which respect the French language!

We must also ban the awful inclusive writing as quickly as possible!

- Florian Philippot (@f_philippot) November 17, 2021


Ok boomer! 

Some would want to answer them, but the definition of


is not yet in Le Petit Robert online.

► Also listen to RFI 7.15 am: 

November 18, 2021 - Iel, Il, Elle 


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  • French language

  • Society

  • LGBT +