from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

X, x [ ʔɪks ] is the 21st letter of the classical and the 24th letter of the modern Latin alphabet . It denotes the combination of the two consonants [k] and [s], ie [ks]. The Romans adopted the alphabet from the Greeks in its western Greek form. Here the letter X had the sound value [ks], in contrast to Eastern Greek, where it was [kʰ].

The letter X has an average frequency of 0.03% in German texts. This makes it the 26 most common and second rarest letter in German texts (including ß ).

X is also the Roman numeral with a decimal value of 10.

Letter X in Fingeralphabet

The finger alphabet for the deaf or hard of hearing represents the letter X with the closed hand pointing to the left and the index finger pointing upwards at an angle.


The letter X must not be confused with the character [x] of the international phonetic spelling , which denotes the so-called ach sound (as in the German word 'ach'). In German, the letter X always stands for the consonant compound [ks], as is usually the case in Dutch, Danish, Norwegian and Italian. It has the same pronunciation in Polish, Czech and Slovenian. In these languages, however, it is only used in a few foreign words.

In other languages ​​the sign also represents other sounds:

  • In Spanish, the sound [x] (pronunciation like “ch” in “ach”) was spelled with both the letter “X” and the letter “j” until the middle of the 19th century. For the sake of standardization, the letter "j" was introduced for the sound [x], regardless of its origin. The best known example is Don Quixote , who in the older form of Don Quixote was. In the country names México and Texas , the older spelling with "x" has been retained, especially in American Spanish, while Méjico and Tejas are common in Spain . In modern Spanish, the letter "x" stands for the sound [ɣs] before vowels and [s] before consonants, in the initial (word beginning) for [ks]. Examples:
  • e xa men [ɛɣˈsamen] "exam, exam".
  • e xp erto [esˈpɛrto] "knowledgeable", Extremadura [st] (proper name).
  • x enofobia [ksenoˈfoɓia] "xenophobia".
  • In Portuguese and Catalan, the “x” is usually pronounced as / ʃ / (like German “sch”), in some cases also as / z /, / ks / or in Portuguese also / s /.
  • In Maltese, Basque and Nahuatl, “x” stands for / ʃ /.
  • In Kurdish, Tatar, Azerbaijani and Uzbek, “x” stands for / x /. In the latter three languages ​​this corresponds to the retention of the previous Cyrillic representation of the sound.
  • In French, “x” is silent at the end of the word (exceptions are six and dix [s] when they stand alone), otherwise it stands for / (g) z /.
  • In Albanian, “x” stands for / dz /, the digraph “xh” stands for / dʒ /.
  • In Venetian, "x" stands for / z /, z. B. in the verb xe , in surnames ( Xausa , Xamin ) and in place names ( Xomo , Xon ).
  • In Pinyin , the character “x” represents the sound [ɕ].
  • In Pirahã , “x” represents the glottic stroke.
  • In some Bantu languages ​​(for example in isiXhosa) "x" represents clicks.
  • In Somali, “x” stands for the sound / ħ /, in Afar for / ɗ /, in Oromo for / tʼ /.

In short words derived from English, "X" stands for the prefix "ex-" (pronunciation / ɪks / or / ɛks /, for example in "Xtreme" or "Xtra"), sometimes also for "Christ-" (e.g. “ X-mas ” for “Christmas”; see Christ monogram ), or, since its shape is reminiscent of a cross, for “cross-” (for example “X-ing” for “crossing”).



Phoenician Samech Greek Xi Greek chi Etruscan X Latin X
Phoenician Samech Greek Xi Greek chi Etruscan X Latin X

The Latin letter X is probably the same as the characters BDO, which are not needed in Etruscan, immigrated via Western Greek, which is native to southern Italy (Magna Graecia). The model for the character of the letter is the Western Greek Ksi, which - in contrast to the Eastern Greek Ξ, which is known to this day - looked X-shaped. The fact that this X-sign had the sound value / kh / or / x / in Eastern Greek and at classical times in Hochattischen has with the interdialectic sound change from / s / to / h / (cf. septem - ἑπτά hepta ), i.e. ksi - khi - chi to do.

Our drawing tradition goes back to about 800 BC in Western Greek. Chr. The sound tradition, however, is different: In the Phoenician alphabet , with the Samech or S ame k, the Ka appears for the first time near the Es in the name of the letter, which still had the sound value [s].

There are several opinions about the origin of the sign: it could symbolize a supporting pillar or the skeleton of a fish . It is clear that the character Ξ for the Eastern Greek consonant connection Ksi is derived from it. It is in the same place in the alphabet and has the same numerical value, namely 60.

In the high-classical Attic alphabet known to us , the Samech probably has two descendants: once as Chi , which stood for the sound value [ks] at the beginning and was then developed towards [x]. When writing the Chi, the horizontal bars became less stressed over time and the letter got its X-shape. In Eastern Greek, however, the sound value of chi changed to a breathy K [kʰ] in some words until classical antiquity - in modern Greek it became the sound [x]. The second descendant is then the Xi, which was previously written with the X-shaped symbol now used for the Chi, so that a new symbol was necessary. To do this, they resorted to the Samech and introduced it again as the letter Ξ . In the Xi, the vertical line of the Samech was omitted over time.

Unlike in the East, the X-like letter was still used in the West for the sound value [ks], albeit under the new name Xi. The fact that we say “iks” and not “ksi” has to do with Marcus Terentius Varro . Up until his time, people spelled a, be, ke, de, e, fe, ge, ha, i, ka, le, me, ne, o, pe, qu, re, se, te, v (u), xe . Varro divided the sounds into mutae (silent sounds) and semivocales (half-vowels) and in his work De lingua latina determined that the half-vowels (l, m, n, f, s, r) should be pronounced with an initial e, but the rest should keep the old name. The Latin X with the sound value [ks] was probably counted as a semivowel because of the s it contained and was therefore prefixed with an e ("eks"). Under the later influence of the i from the Greek Xi ("ksi"), the initial sound then became an i ("iks").


A yellow X on a house wall in Wendland as a symbol of the regional anti-nuclear movement
Sculpture X by Isa Genzken on Arnulfstrasse

Symbols and formula signs

As a sound:

Math, logic:

Although there are for its own characters ×, the character is x sometimes referred to as mark (symbol for multiplication used), especially handwritten or where the Malpunkt (a * b) is not available. Example: 4 x 100 m relay for 4 × 100 m relay . In a scientific context, this use should be avoided in order to avoid confusion with the variable x; there is also a second mark, the central point '⋅'. Because the multiplication sign is pronounced per in Italian , the character x is also used to replace per in informal written language . Examples: xché instead of perché , instead of però .

Formula symbols and other abbreviations:

  • Mole fraction (x), in chemistry
  • Particle number fraction (X), in chemistry
  • In biological nomenclature, the x (with the meaning 'crossed with', also here mostly using the mark) indicates a crossing or hybrid form
  • English thoroughbreds get an xx after the name of the horse, Anglo-Arabs an x ​​and Arabian thoroughbred horses an ox.
  • In chess notation , the x stands for a stroke

The "X" is also used to mark the desired fields (in the case of voting slips, the given box is crossed with an X, in the case of the lottery or similar games of chance the number to be selected).

Often the x according to DIN 55301 (design of statistical tables) is incorrectly used instead of the mark or the cross ✕ for "table compartment blocked because statement does not make sense" as a value-replacing symbol (in contrast to value-adding symbols, including quality indicators ). This is exactly how the symbol is used in tables of official statistics .

Derived from the English " cross " is also in the sense of trans - used as "TX" for transplantation , transaction , as well as transmitter (Engl. Transmitter ).

Other meanings

As a cross symbol , the X sign is called the Andreas Cross, after the martyred St. Apostle Andreas, also Schragenkreuz , after the shape of the feet for the simple holder Schrage (buck) . Correspondingly, when using coats of arms and flags, this arrangement is said to be inclined . The X is also used to describe this appearance, for example on the knock knees .

"X" is often used to designate particularly mysterious or unexplored things ( "X-rays" (X-rays) , X-Factor, Terra X, Generation X , X-Men ). This is probably a popularization of the traditional mathematical use as a symbol for the unknown. Also in use is the abbreviation for “Experimental-” as in X-Planes for the US experimental aircraft program, as is the case with the prefix “ex-” or the word that begins with it, sometimes represented by a single “X”.

One to three "X" (for extra) in front of the outerwear denote special sizes .

XXX is used as an abbreviation for " kiss kiss kiss " in English or to identify sexual and pornographic content ( X rating ). "X" (kiss) or "Xx" (kisses) as well as similar letter sequences are also used as informal greetings among close people, for example in short messages.

X or XTC stands for the drug ecstasy .

The X has another meaning in the straight-edge scene.

For student associations it is used as an abbreviation see batch .

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: X  - Explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: x  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : X  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikiquote: X  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. The pronunciation of the letter "X" in Old Spanish was [ʃ] (like the "sh" in "school"). The sound [ʃ] then developed further in the so-called “Castilian Velarization” in the 17th century to [x]: [kiˈʃote]> [kiˈxote]. S. Heinrich Lausberg: Romance Linguistics. Part 2: Consonantism (= Göschen Collection , Volume 250). Walter de Gruyter Verlag, Berlin 1967, p. 58 u. P. 60.
    In some languages, e.g. B. in French (Don Qui ch otte [ʃ]), Italian (Don Qui sci otte [ʃ]), Catalan (El Qui x ot [ʃ]), English (Don Qui x ote [ks]) or in German ( Older spelling: Don Qui x ote [ʃ / x]) you can find the old spelling with "X" or the pronunciation [ʃ].
  2. Diccionario panhispánico de dudas of the Real Academia Española , entry "México" , accessed on August 1, 2019.
  3. Diccionario panhispánico de dudas of the Real Academia Española , entry "Texas" , accessed on August 1, 2019.
  4. ^ DTV-Brockhaus-Lexikon , Mannheim and Munich 1989, Volume XX, p. 179
  5. Rida AMT Farouki: Pythagorean-hodograph curves: algebra and geometry inseparable . Springer, 2008. ISBN 3540733973 ; P. 25
  6. Guidelines for the design of statistical tables for network programming, Working Group Publications of the State Statistical Offices, Wiesbaden 1997, 41 pages, here: page 36.
  7. GENESIS-Online database: Explanation of symbols
  8. Unicode® 8.0 characters and symbols in German