'Latinx' is mostly unknown term — even among US Latinos: Only 1 in 4 have heard of it, Pew study finds.

As the gender-neutral term "Latinx" gains more popularity to describe the country's Latino population, new research suggests the vast majority of Latinos have not even heard of the word.

Only 23% of U.S. adults who identify as Latino or Hispanic have heard of the term, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

And just 3% actually it to describe themselves.

Researchers surveyed 3,030 Latino or Hispanic adults in December 2019. It was conducted in both English and Spanish, according to Pew.

"Most people in the [Latino] population are unaware of the term's existence," Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew's director of global migration and demography research, told USA TODAY.

'Latinx' explained: A history of the controversial word and how to pronounce it

"The low level of awareness [of Latinx] is perhaps because where the term has emerged from and that is perhaps not necessarily where most Hispanics are," Lopez said, adding that immigrants and older Latinos may be less likely to know the term, let alone use it.

Pronounced “luh-TEE-neks,” "Latinx" is a gender-neutral alternative to Hispanic and Latino, mainly for the LGBTQ+ community. It emerged online and at universities in the early 2000s, but gained popularity in Google searches after the 2016 Pulse shooting inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the study found. 

The word has also gained popularity among celebrities, politicians and corporations. Merriam-Webster added the word into its dictionary in 2018.

The study found that 42% of Latinos from ages 18 to 29 have heard of the term, compared to the 7% of those who are 65 or older.

Those who are likely to use the word "tend to be younger people, college-educated, U.S. born and English speakers," Lopez said. "But, also, interestingly, women."

For example, among 18 to 29 years olds, 14% of women use the word "Latinx" to describe themselves, compared to 1% of men.

While the word was created to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, some critics believe it is anglicizing the Spanish language. The Real Academia Española, the official source of the Spanish language, rejected the word in 2018.

Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY

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