No letter in the English language gets around like X. The 24th letter of the alphabet shows up everywhere, from the popular Xbox to standing in for a signature on legal documents. It represents a chromosome, signifies the multiplication process, and marks “the spot” on treasure maps.
Let’s explore just a few of the uses of this versatile letter.
The story behind the X in Xbox isn’t as mysterious as you might think. The original name was the DirectX box, which came from a group of Microsoft DirectX developers. Microsoft DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces.
Generation X, or Gen X, refers to the generation born after the Baby Boom ended; its last members graduated from high school in 1999. The photographer Robert Capa coined the term. But Douglas Copeland popularized it with a successful novel published in 1991. “Generation X” tells the story of members of an uncertain and lost generation.
There are a few theories regarding where and when X was first used to signify the unknown. One probable thought is that Descartes used the last three letters of the alphabet as unknowns to correspond with the first three letters, which were used for known quantities. X, of course, was part of this group.
X is often found in friendly and amorous correspondence next to O. In XOXO, X represents a kiss and O represents a hug. The first recorded use of this term for affection was in 1765.
Great Britain was the first country to designate films with raunchy content with X, and the U.S. soon followed suit.
In the same vein, XX on malt liquor stands for “double quality” and XXX stands for “strongest quality.” This designation dates back to 1827.
On November 8, 1895 x-rays were discovered. We are celebrating, this week, 115 years of x-rays…yet another use of ‘x.’. Roentgen gave them the name x-rays because at the time, their origin was unknown.
my x-girlfriend = my unknown girlfriend = my future girlfriend
What color does x represents if letters have their own color to someone who can sense color of written scripture.
letter x is a roman number that means 10 , it also represent extra sensorial extra cotrontrol so one x is 10 xx 20 xxx 30 ann so far i would like to learn more about this misteriuos letter. thanks
I really like blog’s on abstract subjects.
And I really liked it.
With all this talk of “X”, why did you neglect the most obvious–Xmas? Because it’s controversial? X is the Greek letter “Chi,” which is the first letter of the word Christos, or Christ. From the earliest times of church history, X has been the standard abbreviation for Christ. So, Xmas does not take Christ out of Christmas, it just abbreviates it.
X is completely unnecessary as a letter, but it looks cool.
Cool. I now loe the letter X.
whoa! that’s really cool!
I have wondered this before, thank you! Dictionary.com, you Are really good at this, this is one of my favorite entries in a long time! keep it up!
what about x marks the spot as on a treasure map, maybe older than descartes or perhaps a modern familiarity, i dunno?
X has long represented the unknown, the blank waiting for a solution, in mathematics. Then there was the SciFi connotation of “Planet X”. It’s a geek thing.
Then there’s XO, the executive officer of a warship. And the XO sauce of the Chinese, a spicy sauce often with some rare and pricey ingredients. And Xmas, of course.
By the way, what does the X in Malcolm X stand for?
thats a bunch of nonsense. where did you do your research? the “X” in Xbox means Experience spelled Xperience.
I think that in the field of industrial innovation ‘X’ also implies that a product is in experimental stage, as in the case of aircraft, viz. Bell X1A.
Some of X’s cache came from the labeling of eXperimental aircraft (The Bell X-1 for example). This designation was fascinating to boys of all stripes and gave the X an exotic connotation.
Very educative.which I could get dis sort of info very often
xxx means to osculate three times, maybe to an inamorata by an uxiorious benedict;there are four words in here used in the flashcards test on romantic words.
I wonder if X didn’t come to be unknown through contracts and such being signed with an X when the signer had lost the ability to write.
I love such tidbits of info!
Aww… XBox? It’s all about “CoD: Black Ops.” on the PS3! Maybe the blog team at Dictionary.com should do a posting about Sony. That would be far more interesting, in my opinion. Though, near all of the Hot Word Blog posts have been very interesting. A majority of the etymology posts would fall into this category.
this website is cool
((11-12 wrote: What color does x represents if letters have their own color to someone who can sense color of written scripture.))
That is a personal perception. It’d be like asking “What color is your shirt” and expecting a single conclusive answer.
I believe Malcom Mcguillicudy(not real spelling) changed his name to Malcolm X because he knew Mcgillicudy was his ancestors owners name when they were slaves. He decided his real name was lost when his ancestors were sold into slavery and therefore the X for unknown.
Respect the X was our motto!
Sorry not Mcguillicudy it was “Little” what a strange mistake
Wait, so you can’t be Gen-X if you never graduated from high school? Great… one more thing for them to be elitist about.
I believe Malcolm X says in his autobiography that he chose the name X because due to the slave trade his real surname was lost or unknown.
and dont forget the use of x to mean a kiss as in XOXOXO at the bottom of a love note
neato! but also… my last name starts with X
Pretty interesting and entertaining.
Loved the piece…
@cyberquill clever… what a horrible vicious cycle that would be
X is also sometimes used to recognize tongue clicking sounds, like the African Xhosa tribe.
X makes the spot on a treasure map goes back to “Treasure Island”, a book written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1883. He made it up…pirates didn’t actually use it as far as I know. He made up a lot of pirate lore people hold to be true today.
In the same vein, XX on malt liquor stands for “double quality” and XXX stands for “strongest quality.” This designation dates back to 1827.
No, while 1827 is the first cite in the Oxford English Dictionary for XX used for beer, X as a designator of beer strength is much older than that: in 1695 the Anchor brewery, Southwark, London was sending “15 Tunns of XX beer” to “Beerbadoes”.
For more on X used by beer brewers, see here.
A good learning curve for today from your shared article about the meaning of X related to XBox. Normally, X understood as “Extra Ordinary”. This is the beauty of being an inventor, where any new term used for sure it relates the history of its creation property.
Yeah! what else to say as this type of formation seems to each his own done by Microsoft. The same thing to DLNA sharing property between Microsoft Windows 7 and LG Optimus 7. DLNA is an acronym to Digital Living Network Alliance.
I smile at these facts!
X- as in unknown
X- as in no longer my ________. as in: x-wife, x-boss, etc.
X is also used in an abbreviation for “but, why”/”por/que” as Xq, so in this case ‘X’ would mean ‘but’.
Hello. I just wanted to Say that I Find the X very offensive to this modern day soceity because of the regards to the Advances to Terrible Things Associated with this letter.
If it were to me to change things for better, I would Definitely Remove this letter from the modern day Lexicon.
smoothius: The X on a treasure map marks the place where treasure is, but I assume you already knew that. The reason it’s an X as opposed to a circle or some other type of marking is because an X is more accurate. Other markings cover more surface area, and therefore more area to dig through to find treasure. But one would just have to find the place where the two lines cross to find where to dig. However, that’s just an assumption.
ChinaBoy: The X in Malcolm X probably has something to do with X being a symbol of the unknown. If I recall correctly, he got rid of his original last name, so the X could also have been a symbol of the lack of a last name.
jeff: I hate to be so skeptical, but this article seems to be more researched. Where did you hear that?
Nicolas WithoutanH: Don’t you mean “Le-icon”? (Sorry, that was meant to be a joke )
What about “x” as Chemical X?
did anybody get that?
Correction: “X” is hug and “O” is kiss
Well, there are not a lot of words with “x” in them, so we’ve gotta find some way to put the letter to good use.
Don’t know what happened to my last post, but I guess I will reiterate what I had said before:
jeff – The “Microsoft Xperience” was something that developed well after the launch of the original Xbox. The information provided in the blog is accurate. Where did you do YOUR research?
Michael Dadona – Please take some english classes. I believe you are suggesting that the “X” in Xbox is commonly believed to stand for “eXtraordinary”, but your suggestion is the first I’ve ever heard of it. As stated above, the blog post is correct that the “X” is in reference to the DirectX API that the Xbox runs on.
And to Nicolas WithoutanH – How could we live in a world without “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”
@Garrett_is_Smith thats so true. lol. add me, am not to bad at call of duty. my gamertag is ” xZurc ” . and anyone else who plays ps3 feel free to add me !
The color would depend on the person. Letters do not have colors that only certain people can sense. A person with synesthesia might associate colors with letters, but that’s a disorder, not an ability to see something that’s not visible to most humans – so any color he sees would be all in his own head.
X is the bane of my existence (it’s ironic that word has an x in it)! For one: finding X in maths, I despise maths! Two: try to spell a word in scrabble with an X, impossible! Three: try playing the alphabet game when you land on X and there are no taverns around selling XXXX beer and not an X-ray place for miles. Four: my sister has a serious issue with the word X-mas and would continually tell us every Christmas about it, great sis’ I know – you told me last year. Five: X means I got a question wrong on a test.
Oh I could go on…I suppose there are some pros – like X marks the spot – but X wasn’t copping much flak on here so I thought it deserved just a little.
By the way: Nicolas WithoutanH, love your argument but *stifles a giggle* I have to agree with Ferret, perhaps a different word – one without an x in it – might have proven your point.
On another note, just throwing it out there, C is a really useless letter isn’t it? I mean really, it could just be replaced in every situation by an S or a K. And why do we need to write CK at the end of words when just K would save us time? Plus, then there would be 25 letters and 25 is a much more pleasing number than 26.
i thought xo meant, respectively, hugs and kisses; since when you pucker, your lips make an ‘o’ shape and when you hug someone your arms cross into an ‘x’ shape?! but idk
news to me!
Back in olden times, people who could not sign their name would put an X. After “signing” their name, they would kiss it. That is how the X came to represent a kiss.
Then there is the use of ‘X’ in marketing to make a brand sound solid; such as changing Esso to Exxon.
so….XXX does not mean sex?
You all are correct about Malcom X for the most part. Essentially he dropped the surname “Little” to symbolize the lost of history, language, religious beliefs & culture that was lost when African were taken from Africa. He replaced it with the unknown X to symbolize the unknown. Cudos to Jack for catching and correcting his own mistake. McGillicuddy sounds very Irish to be & is an example of my point. You can trace religion back to a surname, language, history etc. Alot was lost which makes his point so powerful.
well everyone forgot about the x-men, the x-man cable, x-fator marvel comics professor x.
I always assumed X was for kiss because the K for kiss morphed into an X by sloppey pennmanship.
What is with “Q”? I would love to know the history of “Q”. Please post history about it, Dictionary.com!
What about “Z”?
In Algebra, X means unknown number
In Schools, X means you gave a wrong answer, so the teacher crosses your answer.
In Clothings, X means extra size
But to exhange XMAS for the word christmas, doesn’t make any sense at all
Who is this Douglas “Copeland” you write of? Is he any relation to Douglas Coupland?
“X” never ever marks the spot on a treasure map-said by indiana jones and the last crusade i believe coincidence i think not !!!!
btw i see why they went w/ xbox (which i’m playing right now)
xbox does have a better ring to it than directbox (yawn) lol.. love this site! Glad I can say Xmas too without the Catholic guilt kicking in! lol
this “bunch of tidbits” has it wrong, Kekoa and elle have it right!
X is the symbol for hugs, arms extended before the embrace
O is the symbol for kisses, mimicking the shape of the lips.
Now that’s not too hard to figure out, is it?
From what I’ve read hotword is far from being an authority on words, there are often errors in these entries, or poorly researched etymology.
Very interesting article really but I’m a T&A Man myself. X marks the spot.
I left all my X’s in Texas drinking dosXX. No more X’s or O’s 4 them this Xmas.they are Xed from my list.i am now in an Xtreem relationship w/ my neXt X.dont tell her I said that or she will niX me into Xdom.
In response to the last part of Goofy_Charli’s poat, i agree whole-heartedly. The sounds that C makes aren’t anything that an S or a K could do already. I’m not saying we should go ahead and remove it from the alphabet right now but if you think about it, it’s not really necessary. Thank you for being someone who finally sees my side of this argument!
I too also thought in XOXOXOX, the X represented to kiss, as in 2 people kissing on the lips and the O represented the hug, the O is the shape of hugging.
Also Why does the worlds most popular coping machine, Xerox, start with the X when it should be the Z.
One more thing I too like these little bits of information that Dictionary.com displays everyday.
I thought that middle-and-high-schoolers of this generation were generation x? Like 12-18 ….
Never heard of after the baby bomers…
the letter x stands for XXX rated!!!!!!
also the potency of moonshine is always determined by the amount of X’s on the bottle.
Jenova specimen discovered in the geological stratum of at leaste 4000 years born XX Day XX Month XX Year was declared an ancient.
I remember spending a lot of time during my school years looking for X. Eventually we discovered that X is 10 and to commemorate that fact the X-is-ten-tialist movement was formed.
And just when did Robert Capa give us “Generation X” meaning those who came after the Baby Boomers? It was used far earlier than 1991. “Generation X” was the name of a well-known punk band from the late 1970s-early 1980s.
I’m a synesthete with the grapheme-colour manifestation.
To me, X is purple, but to my friend, it’s red. To another it may be yellow, or orange, or blue.
Any overlap of perception in grapheme-colour synesthetes is completely coincidental.
In regards to the ‘x’ being used for a kiss due to the sound and shape, I do wonder whether there is any similar sound/shape relation to the clashing sound of swords as they meet to form an ‘x’. :/
Karebear you really don’t seem to appreciate the subtlety of the letter ‘c’, in fact I’m shocked that you made such a brash and foolhardy statement.
The letter ‘c’ cannot be easily replaced by ’s’ and ‘k’ as it is not only important for pronouncing several words (that fit structures) with particular sounds that are essential to the dialect of many English people such as myself, but also to many other native and non-native English speakers throughout the world. In addition to that, it it also equally important, for the same and other similar reasons for all other languages that use the same alphabet.
How would you go about pronouncing words like ‘much’ or anything with a ‘ch’? In the Spanish language, the ‘c’ is often used as a soft sound between an ’s’ and a ‘k’. This is also true for English but I find that it is less prominent, especially where I am from.
@11-12 I have Synesthisia and strangely enough, for me X is black. The only other letter that’s black (for me) is i. They arent the same type of black though. x is a shiny black, like a newly polished car finish and i is just plain black.
I didn’t check to see if anyone else answered your Q but I’m going to do that right after I submit this comment lol.
@11-12: For me, x would be indigo.
@The First Commenter: X isn’t useless; it is cool, but not unnecessary.
@Nicolas WithoutanH: FYI, lexicon has an x. ;P
@Rampaw They had a whole thing on the “X” in X-mas a couple months back. I figured they would have copy and pasted some of it here.
@Cj nd others: there’s also the musical intrument, the xylophone. (???) the other object that usually shows up to represent x on an alphabet instructional tool other than the x-ray.
@Kristin: x is black 4 me 2! itz bcuz of tht whole mysterious factor like in yin of yin and yang.
@Nicolas WithoutanH: u inspired my username for this.
wouldn’t “y” be an easier to remove letter? (assuming of course we could be bothered to remove a perfectly good letter from the alphabet, just for fun).
With “q”, I wonder why it is generally followed by a “u” (and in the instances where it isn’t, why that is).
To 11-12, Kristin, Pinki:
I am interested with Synesthesea (you’re free to correct if the spelling is wrong) since after I recently listened to BBC podcast about it, i feel foolish that i found about it just when Im 33. Shame but that’s why we say ‘learning is an endless process”, huh? lol..anyway, Kristin and Pinki thanks for your very interesting answer!
“From what I’ve read hotword is far from being an authority on words, there are often errors in these entries, or poorly researched etymology.”
I think that’s why comment forum is for—to correct and evaluate (appraisal, critic, opinion, complete, thanking, etc). Objectively, no matter how imperfect this site can provide, still they’re doing pretty helpful job here. In the context of mass publishing and info, I always believe perfection comes with process and by contribution of many people. We end up doing nothing if we focus on presenting a perfection. This way helps us to educate ourselves to get use to double and cross-checking information too..
We can’t get rid of the letter “C.” What would we teach our kids..the “ABDs”? We’d have to find a new tune or learn a new way to fit the 25 letters into the 26-beat old song. New alphabet books! Redesign the standard keyboard! Endless CHanges. Who will CHampion such an idea! Makes me CHortle. Fat CHance it could happen.
Nice consonantal alliteration, Merry anne. C does have unique properties–CH to name one of them. And “c” has a slightly different sound than “s” in certain situations… say the word “racy” then say “rasy” and “raky.” The c is not totally like the s and nothing like the k.
XOXOXOX the X represents the arms of two people hugging and the O is the mouth opening for a kiss
still hasn’t answered the Q WHY the X is in xbox. ( or directx box)
Xxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxx xx xxxxxx.
x can also mean “for” in medical use. as in, fever x 3 days (fever for 3 days).
I always thought it was called Xbox because the original looked like an X. It’s a box and it’s in the shape of an X. Xbox…
And I know Jeff is wrong because the name used to be on xbox.com or at least that’s what my friend told me.
lol…. saw someone asking what color X is… I sometimes see numbers and letters as colors, but each one usually can be many different colors, depending on many factors. But mainly, the color of “X” for me is usually black. If used mysteriously, dark purple/black. If used in like a cool screen name or something (hehe), red/black.
Why do artists draw (x_x) to represent the eyes of someone/something who died?
It’s fun learning something in a different angle..that’s what i’ve learned from those who posted first.. thanks! life is better when you’re alive…
“11-12 on November 12, 2010 at 1:41 am
What color does x represents if letters have their own color to someone who can sense color of written scripture.”
I have minor synesthesia and to me, X is jet black. This is odd and ironic, I guess, as all other letters are very bright in their colors (such as red, yellow, blue and so on). I guess it is fitting, though, that X would be so different.
Generation x has nothing to do with when (or whether) someone graduated from high school. After the baby boomers (those born from 1946 – 1964) the generations are measured in fifteen-year blocks, by the year of birth:
Generation x 1965 – 1979
Generation y 1980 – 1994
Generation z 1995 – 2009
Generation α (Greek letter alpha) will be those born from 2010 – 2014, ant then β (beta) and so on.
X-Men (as asked by someone above) orignates from Professor X, their leader and mentor. Professor X gets his character title from his profession (as a professor) and his surname – Xavier (X being the short and cooler sounding form, simply because of the pronunciation Ex-zavier, as opposed to just Zavier).
When Charles Xavier led his first battle with a group of gifted ‘mutant’ children, he helped them control their abilities in order to fight for their country; similar to military issue G-Men. The ‘G’ was replaced with X, since they were under the leadership of Professor X, making it “Professor X and his X-men”
@ anna: X has no meaning in medical terminology as ‘for’ … X is used in this manner across the language as ‘multipied by’
2 pills x 3 days – does not mean “take 2 pills ‘for’ 3 days” (though that’s what you will be doing), it mean “take 6 pills over a period of 3 days” (because 2×3=6). On a prescription, when a pharmacist reads, “2 1-0-1 x 3, it means 2 pills in the morning and two pills in the night, over (or into) 3 days … that’s your dosage, so he’ll give you 12 pills …
x begins my name!
In the past, those who can’t write their names but have to vote, they signed “x”.
[...] X is the Greek letter “chi,” the initial letter in the word Χριστός. And here’s the kicker: Χριστός means “Christ.” X has been an acceptable representation of the word “Christ” for hundreds of years. This device is known as a Christogram. [...]