The whole debacle surrounding the CoC rollout has raised a few questions, and it seems worth bringing attention to some of the less heavy ones as well as the big serious issues.

I should preface by saying that I'm happy to refer to someone with any name or pronoun they want me to use, use gender-non-specific language when I don't know someone's gender, and so on.

But Latin and Ancient Greek are dead languages, and languages that died out before developing any good gender-neutral ways to refer to people. There is no singular "they" in Classical Latin, for example, nor is there any living speech community to develop an equivalent.

When questions and answers are posted in Latin (or Greek) here, how should we deal with people of unknown gender? My preferred style is to use a noun with an intrinsic grammatical gender (such as persona "person", which is always feminine whether it refers to a man or a woman) and make all pronouns agree with that, but it's only one possible style out of many. This seems like a reasonable opportunity to decide on an "official" Latin.SE style to fall back on when all else fails.

1 Answer 1


I would actually propose not to have an official style or policy concerning this in Latin and Greek. There are a number of things where we have no house style, including formatting citations, placement of links, use of quotes, italicizing text, or including greetings. Everyone is free to do as they see fit, within reason.

But there are two things in the direction of having an official style that I would like us to do:

  • Deciding what is certainly out of line. (This does not mean that anything not listed is fine, but that there is a clear and enforceable line that one should never cross.)
  • Giving a list of good approaches to the problem. (Good ideas can help us compose more neutrally, but I would prefer not to force any single one on everyone.)

Regarding the first point, moderators and others already judge whether use of language is out of line without specific guidelines. I am unsure whether strict delimiters are needed, but I have nothing against them if there are suggestions. The only thing I can think of is not using neuter pronouns (like id) of people unless they specifically request that.

When it comes to hints, I am not sure how to best proceed. Of course ideas can be posted here on meta, but it also makes sense to ask such language questions on the main site. Let me point out a couple of relevant questions asked so far:

I apologize that this is something of a non-answer to your question. Does this approach sound reasonable?

  • In common English parlance, I am a fan of gender-neutral language, I use 'they' as a sing. 3rd person pronoun. But, to thrust this into Latin /Greek, which were unashamedly patriarchal societies, strikes me, from admittedly limited knowledge, as a-historical and plain wrong. Just my paid-up feminist POV.
    – TheHonRose
    May 22, 2021 at 11:11
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    @TheHonRose I'd go a bit further: It wouldn't make any sense to force "they" in Latin or Greek. Using plural for singular (like "you" instead of "thou") cannot really be done in Latin the way it is done in English. And more importantly, it would gain nothing, as in Latin the plural is gendered too (ii/eae, illi/illae). Being gender-agnostic looks very different in different languages, sometimes impossible, so we shouldn't transfer any such policies from English to Latin.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    May 22, 2021 at 15:44

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