X is a short entry

We have just three days left of our alphabet journey to 2016.

A few days ago, we looked at U and discovered that there were no fewer than fourteen pages in the OED dedicated just to the Un words.

Well, X only has two pages – in total!  And we can trace most of those X words back to Greek derivation, which makes sense when you look at the history of the letter itself.  It seems that X came to us via Classical Greek and Etruscan.

Of course, we also know that the Romans used X in their system of numbers, where it stood (and stands) for ten.  Interestingly, the modern Italian alphabet does not use X at all.

Let’s just look at a few unusual X words and their meanings…

  • xanthic – yellowish
  • xebec – a small three-masted Mediterranean sailing ship
  • xiphoid – sword shaped
  • xoanon – a primitive wooden image of a diety
  • xystus – a long portico used by athletes for exercise

OK – now I challenge you to use one or more of these words the next time you write!


  1. And of course, let’s not forget the use of X to denote a kiss…. is it the most used salutation at the end of texts today? And in cards and letters in the past?

    • I only discovered recently that the X that we use for kisses in our letters and messages means nothing to our Italian friends. In fact, one of my Italian friends thought it was something to so with the number ten (which, of course, is the Roman numeral X)! I think in this country that it stems from the times when many people couldn’t read or write and used X as their signature. But perhaps someone else knows more about its origins?

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