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X (named ex , plural exes"X", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "ex", op. cit.) is the 24th and antepenultimate letter in the and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.


In , 'Χ' and 'Ψ' were among several variants of the same letter, used originally for and later, in western areas such as , as a simplification of the digraph 'ΧΣ' for . In the end, more conservative eastern forms became the standard of , and thus 'Χ' (Chi) stands for (later ). However, the had taken over 'Χ' from western Greek, and it therefore stands for in Etruscan and .

The letter 'Χ' ~ 'Ψ' for was a Greek addition to the alphabet, placed after the Semitic letters along with phi 'Φ' for .

Use in writing systems

In English orthography, is typically pronounced as the voiceless consonant cluster when it follows the stressed vowel (e.g. ox), and the voiced consonant when it precedes the stressed vowel (e.g. exam). It is also pronounced when it precedes a silent and a stressed vowel (e.g. exhaust).
(1970). 9783110804478, Walter de Gruyter. .
Before or , it can be pronounced or (e.g. sexual and luxury); these result from earlier and . 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). When ends a word, it is always (e.g. ax), except in loan words such as faux (see French, below).

There are very few English words that start with (the fewest number of any letter). When does start a word, it is usually pronounced (e.g. xylophone, xenophobia, and xanthan); in rare recent loanwords or foreign proper names, it can also be pronounced (e.g. the obsolete Vietnamese monetary unit ) or (e.g. Chinese names starting with Xi like or ). Many of the words that start with are of origin, or standardized trademarks ( ) or acronyms ( XC). In abbreviations, it can represent "trans-" (e.g. XMIT for transmit, XFER for transfer), "cross-" (e.g. X-ing for crossing, XREF for ), "Christ-" as shorthand for the (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).

X is the in English (after and ), with a frequency of about 0.15% in words.

Other languages
In Latin, stood for . In some languages, as a result of assorted phonetic changes, handwriting adaptations or simply spelling convention, has other pronunciations:
  • as a spelling for . Additionally there is the digraph .
  • usually represents , except in the name of the island of , which is pronounced Tessel. This is because of historical sound-changes in Dutch, where all /ks/ sounds have been replaced by /s/ sounds. Words with an in the Dutch language are nowadays usually . In the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, with are not uncommon (e.g. Dierckx, Hendrickx, Koninckx, Sterckx, Vranckx).
  • In Norwegian, is generally pronounced , but since the 19th century, there has been a tendency to spell it out as 'ks'; it may still be retained in personal names, though it is fairly rare, and occurs mostly in foreign words and . Usage in , and is similar.
  • at the ends of words, silent (or in liaison if the next word starts with a vowel). Three exceptions are pronounced : six ("six"), dix ("ten") and in some city names such as (although some people still pronounce it 'ks') or ; it is fully pronounced ks in . It is pronounced in sixième and dixième.
  • In , is either pronounced , as in extra, uxorio, xilofono, or , as exogamia, when it is preceded by and followed by a vowel. In several related languages, notably Venetian, it represents the voiced sibilant . It is also used, mainly amongst the young people, as a short written form for "per", meaning "for": for example, "x sempre" ("forever"). This is because in Italian the multiplication sign (similar to ) is called "per". However, is found only in , as it is not part of the standard ; in most words with , this letter may be replaced with 's' or 'ss' (with different pronunciation: xilofono/silofono, taxi/tassì) or, rarely, by 'cs' (with the same pronunciation: claxon/).
  • In , was pronounced , as it is still currently in other Iberian Romance languages. Later, the sound evolved to a hard sound. In modern , due to a spelling reform, whenever is used for the sound it has been replaced with , including in words that originally had such as ejemplo or ejercicio, though is still retained for some names (notably 'México', even though 'Méjico' may sometimes be used in Spain). Presently, represents the sound (word-initially), or the consonant cluster (e.g. oxígeno, examen). Rarely, it can be pronounced as in Old Spanish in some proper nouns such as 'Raxel' (a variant of ) and .
  • In Galician and , is pronounced in most cases. In learned words, such as ' taxativo' (taxing), it is pronounced . However, Galician speakers tend to pronounce it , especially when it appears before plosives, such as in 'externo' (external).
  • In , has three sounds; the most common is ; as in 'xarop' (syrup). Other sounds are: ; 'fixar' (to fix), ; 'examen'. In addition, gets voiced to before voiced consonants; 'caixmir'. Catalan also has the digraph , pronounced .
  • In Portuguese, has four main sounds; the most common is , as in 'xícara' (cup). The other sounds are: as in 'flexão' (flexion); , when preceded by E and followed by a consonant, as in 'contexto' ( in European Portuguese), and in a small number of other words, such as 'próximo' (close/next); and (the rarest) , which occurs in the prefix 'ex-' before a vowel, as in 'exagerado' (exaggerated). A rare fifth sound is , coexisting with and as acceptable pronunciations in exantema and in words with the Greek prefix 'hexa-'.
  • In Venetian, it represents the voiced alveolar sibilant much like in Portuguese 'exagerado', English 'xylophone' or in the French 'sixième'. Examples from medieval texts include raxon (reason), prexon (prison), dexerto (desert), chaxa/caxa (home). Nowadays, the best-known word is xe (is/are). The most notable exception to this rule is the name Venexia in which has evolved from the initial voiced sibilant to the present day voiceless sibilant.
  • In Albanian, represents , while the digraph represents .
  • In , is pronounced or, in some cases, (only in loanwords such as 'televixin', and not for all speakers).
  • In , was used prior to 19th century both in loanwords and native words and was pronounced or , e.g. xiążę, xięstwo (now książę, księstwo). Later was replaced by and in all words and remained only in surnames as Axentowicz, Jaxa, Koxowski, Mixtacki, Rexemowski, Xiężopolski, names as Xawery, Xymena and abbreviations.

Additionally, in languages for which the has been adapted only recently, 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 can be written by other means, the letter becomes available for more unusual sounds.

  • represents (voiceless velar fricative) or (voiceless uvular fricative) in e.g. Azerbaijani, , , , , and (Latin script).
  • : The replaces , , , , , and with x-suffixes: , , , , , and .
  • In transliteration of Indian languages, represents the consonant cluster in alternate spellings of words containing 'क्ष' (kṣ), especially names such as and . Less frequently, is used to represent 'ख़' .
  • In represents
  • In , represents .
  • In , represents the alveolar lateral click .
  • In Pirahã, symbolizes the .
  • An illustrating example of "x" as a "leftover" letter is differing usage in three different Cushitic languages:
  • In Southeast Asia:
    • In , based on romanization of Lao consonants, may represent , e.g. in .
    • In Vietnamese, is pronounced like English (at the beginning of a word, e.g. "sing"). This sound was in Middle Vietnamese, resembling the Portuguese sound , spelled .
    • In , 's official transcription system in China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan, the letter represents the voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative , for instance in 'Xi', . This sound somewhat resembles .

Other systems
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, represents a voiceless velar fricative.

Other uses
In , x is commonly used as the name for an independent variable or unknown value. The modern tradition of using x to represent an unknown was introduced by René Descartes in La Géométrie (1637). See History of algebra. As a result of its use in , X is often used to represent unknowns in other circumstances (e.g. , , , and The Man from Planet X; see also ).

In the Cartesian coordinate system, x is used to refer to the horizontal axis.

It may also be used as a typographic approximation for the multiplication sign. In mathematical typesetting, x meaning an algebraic variable is normally in (x\!), partly to avoid confusion with the multiplication symbol. In fonts containing both x (the letter) and × (the multiplication sign), the two glyphs are dissimilar.

It can be used as an abbreviation for 'between' in the context of historical dating; e.g., '1483 x 1485'.

Maps and other images sometimes use an X to label a specific location, leading to the expression "X marks the spot".

The Ⅹ represents the number 10.

In art or fashion, the use of X indicates a collaboration by two or more artists, e.g. Aaron Koblin x Takashi Kawashima. This application, which originated in Japan, now extends to other kinds of collaboration outside the art world.

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet
  • X with : Ẍ ẍ Ẋ ẋ ᶍ
  • IPA-specific symbols related to X:
  • phonetic transcription-specific symbols related to X:
  • ˣ : Modifier letter small x is used for phonetic transcription
  • ₓ : Subscript small x is used in Indo-European studies

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets
  • Χ χ : letter Chi, from which the following derive:
    • Х х : letter Kha
    • : letter Khe, which derives from Greek Chi
    • : letter enguz, which derives from Greek Chi
    • 𐌗 : Old Italic X, which derives from Greek Chi, and is the ancestor of modern Latin X
      • : letter , which may derive from old Italic X
  • Ξ ξ : Greek letter Xi, which was used in place of Chi in the Eastern (and the modern) Greek alphabets

Computing codes

In the C programming language, 'x' preceded by zero (0x or 0X) is used to denote hexadecimal literal values.

Other representations

See also
  • XX
  • XXX
  • XXXX
  • Commonly used as a prefix term in nouns related to the X Window System and

External links
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