is the twenty-fourth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet
name in English
( ) is spelled
, plural exes
The consonant cluster
, written as either
(Western Greek) or Xi
(Eastern Greek). In the end, Chi
standardized as ( in Modern Greek
was standardized for . But the Etruscans had taken over Χ from older Western Greek;
therefore, it stood for in Etruscan and Latin.
It is unknown whether the letters Chi
Greek inventions, or whether they are ultimately of Semitic
was placed toward the
end of the Greek alphabet
, after the
Semitic letters, along with Phi
, and Omega
, suggesting that it was an innovation;
further, there is no letter corresponding specifically to the sound
/ks/ in Semitic. There was a Phoenician letter ḥeth
with a probable sound ,
somewhat similar to , but this was adopted into Greek as first the
consonant /h/, and later, the long
(Η,η), and does not seem
to have been the source of Greek Chi
. The Phoenician
(representing /s/) is
usually considered the inspiration for Greek Xi
, but as
had a graphically distinct shape from
—although it may possibly have been another variant
originally based on samekh
. The original form of
may have been an Egyptian hieroglyph
for the Djed
column, but this too is uncertain, as no
this letter is attested.
|Egyptian hieroglyph "column"
In the International
, represents a voiceless velar fricative
In some languages, as a result of assorted phonetic changes,
handwriting adaptations or simply spelling convention, X
has other pronunciations:
- Basque or Leonese: as a spelling for .
- Dutch: The island of Texel is
pronounced as Tessel. This is because ss used to be
written with a ligature closely resembling X. In all other
words X represents .
- English: X is
typically a sign for the compound consonants ; or sometimes when
followed by an accented syllable beginning with a vowel, or when
followed by silent h and an accented vowel (e.g. exhaust,
exam); usually at the beginnings of words (e.g.
xylophone, Xenon), and in some compounds keeps
the sound, as in (e.g. meta-xylene). It also makes the
sound in words ending in -xion (typically used only in
British-based spellings of the language; American spellings
tend to use -ction). It can also represent the sounds or , for
example, in the words luxury and sexual, respectively. Final x is
always (e.g. ax/axe) except in loan words such as
faux (see French, below). In abbreviations, it can
represent "trans-" (e.g. XMIT for transmit, XFER for transfer),
"cross-" (e.g. X-ing for crossing; XREF for cross-reference), "Christ" (e.g. Xmas for
Christmas; Xian for Christian), the "Crys" in Crystal (XTAL), or
various words starting with "ex" (e.g. XL for extra large; XOR for
exclusive-or). There are very
few English words that start with X - the least amount of any
letter. Many of the words that do start with X are either
standardized trademarks (XEROX) or acronyms (XC).
- French: at the ends of words,
silent (or in liaison if the next
word starts with a vowel). This usage arose as a handwriting
alteration of final -us. Two exceptions are pronounced
[s]: six and dix.
- In Italian, X is
always pronounced , as in the words uxorio,
extra, xilofono. It is also used, mainly amongst
younger generations as a short form for "per" meaning "for", for
example, x sempre (forever). This because in Italian the multiplication sign (similar to x) is called
- In Norwegian, X is
generally pronounced , but since the nineteenth century there has
been a tendency to spell it out as ks whenever possible;
it may still be retained in names of people, though it is fairly
rare, and occurs mostly in foreign words and SMS language. Usage in German and Finnish is similar.
- Spanish: In Old Spanish,
X was pronounced , as it is still currently in other
Iberian Romance languages.
Later, the sound evolved to a hard sound. In modern Spanish, the
hard sound is spelled with a j, or with a g
before e and i, though x is still
retained for some names (notably México, which alternates
with Méjico). Now, X represents the sound
(word-initially), or the consonant cluster (e.g. oxígeno,
examen). Even rarer, the x can be pronounced like in
Old Spanish in some proper nouns such as Raxel (a variant
of Rachel) and Xelajú.
- Galician, Catalan and Leonese language: In Galician (a language
related to Portuguese and spoken in Northwestern Spain), and
Leonese, in Spain, x is pronounced in most cases. In
learned words, such as 'taxativo' (taxative), the x is
pronounced . However, Galician speakers tend to pronounce it as ,
especially when it appears in implosive position, such as in
- In Portuguese, x
can have four sounds: the most common is , as in 'xícara' (cup).
The other sounds are: as in 'fênix/fénix' (phoenix) and , as in
'próximo' (close/next). The most rare is , as in 'exagerado'
- Venetian:it represented the
voiced alveolar fricative much like in Portuguese 'exagerado',
English 'xylophone' or in the French liaison. Examples from
medieval texts include 'raxon' (reason), 'prexon' (prison),
'dexerto' (desert), 'chaxa/caxa' (home, It. "casa"). Nowadays, the
most known word is 'xe' (is/are).
- In Albanian, x
represents , while the digraph xh
- In Maltese x is pronounced or,
in some cases, (only in loanwords such as 'televixin', and not for
Additionally, in languages for which the Latin alphabet
has been adapted only
has been used for various sounds, in some
cases inspired by European usage, but in others, for consonants
uncommon in Europe. For these no Latin letter stands out as an
obvious choice, and since most of the various European
pronunciations of x
can be written by other means, the
letter becomes available for more unusual sounds.
- X has its IPA value in e.g. Kurdish, Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Tatar
- In Pashto, x represents
- In Lebanese, x represents .
- In Hindi it may represent the sound in
alternate spellings of words containing क्ष, especially names such
as Laxmi or Madhuri
- In Vietnamese x is
- In Pirahã, x
symbolizes the glottal stop .
- In Hanyu Pinyin, a transcription
system for Mandarin Chinese, the
letter x represents the voiceless alveolo-palatal
- In Nahuatl, x represents .
- Nguni languages: represents the
alveolar lateral click .
- An illustrating example of x as a "leftover" letter is
differing usage in three different East Cushitic languages:
No words in the Basic English
vocabulary begin with X
, but it occurs in words beginning
with other letters. It is often found in a word with an E before
it. X is the third most rarely used letter in the English language
Codes for computing
X is codepoint U+0058 and the lower case
x is U+0078.
code for capital X is 88 and for
lowercase x is 120; or in binary
01011000 and 01111000,
code for capital X is 231 and for
lowercase x is 167.
The numeric character
" and "x
for upper and lower case respectively.
- "X" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989);
Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the
English Language, Unabridged (1993); "ex," op. cit.