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Basic Latin alphabet

X is the twenty-fourth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet. Its name in English (pronounced /ˈɛks/) is spelled ex,[1] plural exes (/ˈɛksɨz/).



The consonant cluster /ks/ was, in Ancient Greek, written as either Chi Χ (Western Greek) or Xi Ξ (Eastern Greek). In the end, Chi was standardized as /kʰ/ (/x/ in Modern Greek), while Xi was standardized for /ks/. But the Etruscans had taken over Χ from older Western Greek; therefore, it stood for /ks/ in Etruscan and Latin.

It is unknown whether the letters Chi and Xi are Greek inventions, or whether they are ultimately of Semitic origin. Chi was placed toward the end of the Greek alphabet, after the Semitic letters, along with Phi, Psi, 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 /ħ/, somewhat similar to /kʰ/, but this was adopted into Greek as first the consonant /h/, and later, the long vowel Eta (Η,η), and does not seem to have been the source of Greek Chi. The Phoenician letter Samekh (representing /s/) is usually considered the inspiration for Greek Xi, but as noted, Chi had a graphically distinct shape from Xi—although it may possibly have been another variant originally based on samekh. The original form of samekh may have been an Egyptian hieroglyph for the Djed column, but this too is uncertain, as no intervening Proto-Sinaitic form of this letter is attested.

Egyptian hieroglyph "column" Phoenician S Greek Xi Greek Chi Etruscan X


In the International Phonetic Alphabet, [x] 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 [ʃ].
  • Dutch: The island of Texel is pronounced as Tessel. This is because ss was written with a ligature closely resembling the x.
  • English: X is a double consonant or, rather, a sign for the compound consonants [ks]; or sometimes when followed by an accented syllable beginning with a vowel, or when followed by silent h and an accented vowel [ɡz] (e.g. exhaust, exam); usually [z] at the beginnings of words (e.g. xylophone), and in some compounds keeps the [z] sound, as in (e.g. meta-xylene). It also makes the sound [kʃ] 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 [ɡʒ] or [kʃ], for example, in the words luxury and sexual, respectively. Final x is always [ks] (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).
  • French: at the ends of words, silent (or [z] 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 [ks], 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 "per".
  • In Norwegian, X is generally pronounced [ks], 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.
  • Spanish: In Old Spanish, X was pronounced [ʃ], as it is still currently in other Iberian languages. Later, the sound evolved to a hard [x] sound. In modern Spanish, the hard [x] 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 [s] (word-initially), or the consonat clusters [ks] and [ɡz] (e.g. oxígeno, examen). Even rarer, the x can be pronounced [ʃ] 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 language, in Spain, x is pronounced [ʃ] in most cases. In cultisms, such as 'taxativo' (taxative), the x is pronounced [ks]. However, Galician speakers tend to pronounce it as s, especially when it appears in implosive position, such as in 'externo' (extern).
  • In Portuguese, x can have four sounds: the most common is [ʃ], as in 'xícara' (cup). The other sounds are: [ks] as in 'fênix/fénix' (phoenix) and s, as in 'próximo' (close/next). The most rare is [z], as in 'exagerado' (exaggerate).
  • In Albanian, x represents [dz], while the digraph xh represents [dʒ].
  • Polish doesn't use X. In loanwords, X is either replaced by ks like in 'ekstra' (extra), or gz like in 'egzotyczny' (exotic).
  • In the German and Italian languages, X is used mainly in foreign loan words.
  • In Maltese x is pronounced [ʃ]
  • In Vietnamese x is pronounced [s]

Additionally, in languages for which the Latin alphabet has been adapted only recently, x 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.

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

Alternative representations of X
NATO phonetic Morse code
X-ray –··–
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In Unicode the capital X is codepoint U+0058 and the lower case x is U+0078.

The ASCII code for capital X is 88 and for lowercase x is 120; or in binary 01011000 and 01111000, correspondingly.

The EBCDIC code for capital X is 231 and for lowercase x is 167.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "X" and "x" for upper and lower case respectively.

See also


  1. ^ "X" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "ex," op. cit.
The Basic modern Latin alphabet
Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz
Letter X with diacritics
Two-letter combinations
Letter-digit & Digit-letter combinations
   X0X1X2X3X4X5X6X7X8X9    0X1X2X3X4X5X6X7X8X9X   

history palaeography derivations diacritics punctuation numerals Unicode list of letters ISO/IEC 646


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

The Universal Character Set
Letter x.svg
Basic Latin U+0078



Wikipedia has an article on:



x lower case (upper case X)

  1. The twenty-fourth letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.

See also



  1. A symbol of the IPA, representing a voiceless velar fricative.
  2. (mathematics) An unknown variable.
  3. (mathematics) The first coordinate in Cartesian coordinates, representing horizontal position.
  4. A kiss at the end of a letter, or similar missive.

See also

Other representations of X:



x (lowercase, uppercase X)

  1. The twenty-fourth letter of the English alphabet, preceded by w and followed by y.


  • (letter name): IPA: /ɛks/, SAMPA: /Eks/
 Audio (US)help, file
  • (phoneme): IPA: /ks/, /gz/, /z/



  • (letter name): IPA: /ɪks/


x (lower case, upper case X)

  1. The twenty-fourth letter of the Dutch alphabet.

See also

  • Previous letter: w
  • Next letter: y



x m. and f. inv.

  1. See under X



  1. (text messaging, slang) 4 ( = for, preposition)




x (lowercase, capital X)

  1. The twenty-seventh letter of the Romanian alphabet representing the double-consonant sounds /gz/ and /ks/. Preceded by v and followed by z.



x (lower case, upper case X)

  1. The 27th letter of the Spanish alphabet.

Simple English

The Latin alphabet
Aa Bb Cc Dd
Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj
Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp
Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv
Ww Xx Yy Zz

X is the twenty-fourth (number 24) letter in the English alphabet.

Meanings for X

  • In a general sense, X means something is unknown or secret, as in project X.
  • In clothing X is used as a short letter for extra, such as XXL for extra-extra-large.
  • In Roman numerals, X means ten.

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