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X (letter)

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X, x is a letter of the Latin alphabet. It is the twenty-fourth letter of most variants, being placed after W and before Y, as is the case for instance in the English alphabet. Its English name is pronounced [ˈeks], like the prefix ex-.

X is also the Roman numeral representing the number 10.

Use in English

Use in English
Alphabetical word list
Retroalphabetical list  
Common misspellings  

x, except when beginning a word, where it sounds like z or sh, combines the sound of k (kíng) and hissing s (síng): láx lazy sounds exactly like lácks hasn’t: bóx, fáx, áxe, éx-, México, cóxswain (which can also be pronounced like the surname Cóxon), éxcellent, síx, sáx, táx, Réx, fóx, fóxy, tóxic, máximum, exámine, Máx, Báx, wáx, Róxy.

  • The accents show stress and pronunciation (see English spellings): A: sát, mâde, pàrk, cāst (cást/càst), åll, ãir; E: ére, êar, vèin, fërn; I: sít, mîne, skì, bïrd; O: sóng, môde, lòve, wörd, ŏr; OO: moôn, foòt; U: sún, mûse, fùll, pürr; W: neŵ, ẁant; Y: gým, mŷ, keỳ, mÿrrh.

Though normally ks, some speakers prefer to pronounce it gz, at least in words beginning ex- (but not including the prefix éx- former, where it would sound inappropriately like éggs): exáct, exámine, exàmple. Thus Bréxit has been rhymed with légs ít (*légzit), though most people rhyme it with wrécks ít.

Before -io- it sounds like -ksh- (IPA [kʃ]): nóxious, ánxious, compléxion (*nókshəs, *ángkshəs, *cəmplékshən).

Often it is followed by a redundant c: excépt, éxcise, excîte, éxcellent, although if followed by a back vowel (a, o, u) the c is pronounced k: éxcavate, AmE excŏriate BrE excóriate. Words with unstressed ex- can sound as if they begin éx- or íx-, according to the speaker.

But this x sound can also be written, before a front vowel, cc: áccident, *áxident, áccent, áccess, accépt, Occidéntal, cóccyx *kóxix.

x is itself a consonant cluster, and it begins the following accidental ones: xb, xcl, xl, xm, xt: óxbow, exclâim, áxle, Áxminster, extól.

Final nx is pronounced -ngks, IPA [ŋks]: lýnx, mínx, Sphínx, jínx, Mánx.

The pronunciation of ánxious is *ánkshəss, while anxîety is pronounced *angzîety.

Initial x is rare. In words from Greek it sounds like z: xylophone, Xénophon, xénophobe. This can be seen in the two differing x’s in Xërxês (*Zërxêez). It can also be initial, as well as medial, in Chinese names, where it always sounds like sh, IPA [ʃ]: Xinjiáng. In X-rây, the name of the letter X is pronounced: *éxray.

x also sounds like z in French plurals: tábleaux (*táblôz), pláteaux (*plátôz)—though in French these xs are silent unless closely followed by a vowel.

There is a silent French x in faux-pàs (*fô-pà).

xx is purely commercial: Éxxon, Bób B. Sóxx (a respelling of bóbby sócks).

Scientific uses

  • x: generic unknown quantity
  • X-ray