What was the original name of the letter X, and how many sounds can it represent?

We’ve explored the meaning behind the “X” in Xmas, Xbox, the X-Men, and even its use in friendly and amorous correspondence (XOXO).  Now it’s time to take a closer look at the origin of this multi-functional, twenty-fourth letter of the English alphabet. With its long, ambiguous history and multiple phonemes, the letter “X” is quite a dark horse.

Since its inception, the letter “X” has struggled to establish its own identity, so it may be no coincidence that /x/ is commonly used to represent the unknown in both language and mathematics. “X” is derived from the Phoenician letter samekh, meaning “fish.” Originally used by the Phoenicians to represent the /s/ consonant (denoting a hard “s” sound), the Greeks borrowed the samekh around 900 BC and named it “Chi.”

The ancient Greeks utilized their newly acquired phonological element to simplify the digraph (a pair of letters representing a single speech sound) /ks/ – used most prominently throughout the western regions of Greece. The Romans later adopted the ‘x’ sound from the Chalcidian alphabet, a non-Ionic Greek alphabet, and borrowed the ‘Chi’ symbol, consisting of two diagonally crossed strokes, from the Greek alphabet to denote the letter /x/ as well as to identify the Roman numeral X or “10.” So to sum up: The Romans took the /x/ sound from one alphabet (Chalcidian) and combined it with the ‘Chi’ symbol from another alphabet (Greek) and thus X was born.

Like many letters in the English language, such as “C” and “J,” X is a bit of a phonetic chameleon. For instance, /x/ is used to establish the /ks/ sound, as in wax and fox — referred to as a “voiceless velar fricative” – the articulation of a sound made by placing the back of the tongue at the soft palate. The same rule applies for x’s /gz/ sound, as in “auxiliary” and “exhaust.” X can also take on the /z/ sound as in “xylophone” and “Xanadu”, the hard /k/ sound as in “excite”, and /kzh/ as in “luxury”. The /x/ can also be silent as in “Sioux (Falls)”, and the French loan-word “faux”.

We appreciate your input – let us know which letter of the alphabet you’d like us to investigate next.

Amtrak funding crisis worries Metra.(News)

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) June 22, 2002 | McCoppin, Robert Byline: Robert McCoppin Daily Herald Staff Writer Metra officials say they are concerned the potential shutdown of Amtrak could disrupt rail service for thousands of suburban commuters who use Union Station.

Amtrak owns and operates the downtown Chicago station, but Metra runs more than 80 percent of the trains there.

On Thursday, Amtrak President David Gunn said he would have to shut Amtrak down unless it secured $200 million more in funding by the middle of next week.

The same day, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta suggested a major restructuring of Amtrak, privatizing some parts and giving states more authority over the remaining public routes. Since its creation in 1971, Amtrak has been a perennial money-loser for Washington. Throughout the years, Congress has come through on a number of occasions with cash to keep the company running. However, the Bush administration has proposed ending Amtrak’s role as the nation sole provider of passenger rail service, putting the future of the company in doubt.

If Amtrak operations are interrupted, Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano said, provisions must be made for some entity – possibly Metra, which runs the suburban commuter rail lines – to immediately keep running Union Station.

Pagano said he also would be willing to look at running some Amtrak routes if necessary but has held no serious discussions on that subject.

“If Amtrak goes bankrupt, Union Station … still needs to function and, if we have to step in to take up that void, we’ll need to do it,” he said. “Any deterioration of that will have an impact on Metra operations, and we’re working very closely with Amtrak to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Amtrak also is waiting for Congress to act on its request for $1.2 billion for the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, yet the Bush administration has said the national rail system cannot continue to operate as it has, at a deficit.

Faced with such warnings, Pagano said he’s met with Federal Railroad Association officials to emphasize the importance of continued operations at Union Station. here amtrak promotion code

Half of Metra’s 12 lines and 242 trains use Union Station each weekday, including the Milwaukee District North and West lines, the North Central Service, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the Heritage Corridor and the Southwest Service.

Union Station handles more than 125,000 Metra rides each weekday – 42 percent of Metra’s 300,000 daily passengers – including its busiest route, the Burlington Northern from Aurora and Naperville.

Metra pays about $8 million a year to use Union Station, so if it took it over, it would save that money. But Metra officials said they would have to see whether more funding would be needed to run other aspects of the operation.

Already this year, Metra has had several problems at rush hour because of failures in Amtrak’s computerized dispatch and signaling system for Union Station.

Pagano said those problems were not caused by Amtrak’s funding difficulties but by problems with a contractor hired to upgrade the system.

The upgrade will not be completed until next year.

Shutdown plans Amtrak was making some contingency plans for an orderly shutdown in early July, if necessary, with adequate advance notice for the public, spokesman Howard Reifs said.

Union Station is Amtrak’s fourth largest station, but Reifs did not know of any plans to keep it operating in case of a shutdown.

If Amtrak runs out of money, it would shut down 48 trains a day in Illinois, which carried 2.8 million riders last year, most of them in Chicago, but including 28,000 at its lone suburban stop in Naperville.

It would also lose 10 trains to out-of-state destinations, which are typically the biggest money-losers.

Amtrak employs 200 managers in Chicago, 600 business unit workers and 650 skilled laborers. It also spent $74 million on goods and services in Illinois last year, including millions in Itasca, Elk Grove Village, Rosemont and Lombard.

Amtrak critics, such as Joseph Vranich, a former member of the Amtrak Reform Council, think it would be beneficial for Amtrak to shut down and for local commuter rail operators to take over regional routes.

In his book “Derailed,” Vranich argued that money-losing long- distance Amtrak routes, like Chicago to San Antonio, should be shut down to provide better service on shorter routes with higher demand, such as Chicago to St. Louis or Detroit.

Local operators like Metra, Vranich said, would need federal subsidies to pick up such routes. They also would need to acquire track rights Amtrak has to use freight railroad lines. in our site amtrak promotion code

There is precedent for proposals to have Metra take over Amtrak operations.

In 1996, Illinois lawmakers pushed to have Metra take over Amtrak routes, arguing it would lower costs and provide better, more on-time service.

Metra officials said they were interested at the time, but it would have to be done at no cost or harm to its current customers.

State burden increases Meanwhile, the amount state taxpayers pay Amtrak to provide rail service has risen, with some increased service, from $3 million in 1995 to $7 million in 1996, to $10 million this year.

The state pays Amtrak to run the Illinois Zephyr route from Chicago to Quincy, the State House line from Chicago through Springfield to St. Louis, and the Illini route, from Chicago through Champaign to Carbondale.

Illinois also shares part of the cost with Wisconsin to run six trains a day on the Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Beyond seeking more information about Amtrak’s future, the state has not made any provision to continue train service if Amtrak becomes insolvent, Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Dick Adorjan said.

As it stands now, he said, “once Amtrak stops running, service stops.” Supporters of a national rail service, however, like David Randall, president of the Illinois Association of Railroad Passengers, remain optimistic that Congress, faced with an Amtrak shutdown, will approve funding to keep it going.

Debt-ridden states like Illinois have no extra money to fund rail service, Randall said, and it would be difficult to coordinate rail service across parts of 50 states.

“I’m not losing sleep over Amtrak shutting down,” Randall said. “Congress will find some way for them to pull through.” Metra officials also anticipate that Amtrak, which has a new director with extensive railway experience, will get funding and continue operations.

But if worse came to worse, Metra spokesman Frank Malone said, officials expect they’ll have enough time to prevent any service cancellations or delays.

“It would have to be a smooth transition, so we’d be able to run and slowly resume responsibility for Union Station,” Malone said. “That is our primary overwhelming concern.” GRAPHIC: Amtrak and Chicago – Amtrak runs Union station, but could cede control to Metra in the event of a shutdown – An Amtrak shutdown would cancel 48 trains a day from Illinois, most out of Chicago – Amtrak employs about 1,400 people in and around Chicago News reports McCoppin, Robert

How to Paint the Ceiling And Not Your Face

The Washington Post April 4, 2002 | Mike McClintock In any painting project, rolling fresh color over a clean, sound wall is the easy part, where you make great time and see dramatic results. But jobs can bog down when you run up against some of the more troublesome areas, such as ceilings, windows and radiators.

If you know you’ll have to deal with some of these tricky areas, avoid problems by planning your strategy and making sure you have the right equipment.

Nearly always, you’ll want to paint the ceiling first. Working over your head is always a hassle. It’s particularly tough on the arms and shoulders. And even if you’re covered up in a long-sleeved shirt and old hat, you might get a face full of paint splatter and drips.

An elaborate setup of ladders and scaffolds will get you closer to the job, and you might have to resort to that if the ceiling needs a lot of patching. But if not, try working from the ground using a paint roller screwed to an extension pole. You can also use a sanding pad on a pole to prep the surface. go to website how to paint

With practice, you’ll find that using a pole is a bit like leisurely paddling a canoe — with the paddle pointing up. And because the roller stays well in front of you, you can finish the job without a splatter-painted face.

The secret to painting windows is a process professionals call cutting in. That means you spread paint along the slender wooden edges without painting the glass at the same time. It can be a challenge for novices, but less so if you use a professional-quality brush.

The best choice is a brush no wider than three inches with a long handle for added control, called a sash tool. (Buy nylon for latex paint, natural bristles for oil-based paint.) The best varieties are flagged and tipped. When bristles are flagged, the tapered ends are slightly split to hold more paint. When bristles are tipped, the ends are tapered to release an even, controllable flow.

After you load up the brush, cradle the handle between your thumb and forefinger and point the bristle end as you would a pencil. Flex the bristles in line with the stroke, and draw the tool evenly along the edge you want to paint. Some people prefer the angle-cut version of the tool. But flexing the bristles as you work produces the same shape and often better results.

The nonprofessional but still workable approach is to cover the edges of the glass with tape and paint away. But taping neatly is time consuming, and cleanup is a problem if you use standard masking tape and have to scrape away tape adhesive with a razor blade. If you do take the tape approach, use painters’ tape that has less adhesive and is designed to pull off intact. website how to paint

The ultimate course of action here is to completely disconnect old radiators and ship them to a contractor who will strip the exterior and interior surfaces. Freed of rust and scale inside, and taken down to bare metal with a clear coat or one layer of radiator paint outside, they will look good and transfer maximum heat.

When you tackle radiators in place, however, there are some choices to make. For example, you could add another coat of paint, which will reduce heat output a bit, or strip off old layers and start again.

But stripping is a messy job, and in older houses could involve lead paint. (If you plan to strip old paint or do a lot of scraping and sanding, check for lead with an inexpensive swab-test kit available at paint and hardware stores.) To use a typical chemical stripper, you need to cloak the area with drop cloths, don full protective gear and provide a lot of ventilation.

For a once-over paint job, start by washing the radiator to remove dirt and oil and ensure better adhesion for the new coat. A light sanding that scuffs the surface also helps. You’ll also need to turn off the radiator (or wait for warmer weather) to do the job.

No need to use automotive or metallic paint, although you should apply a metal primer over bare metal. In fact, an extra coat of metallic paint can noticeably reduce heat output. If you want to use paint with a metallic finish but don’t want the heat loss, install a reflective aluminum shield behind the radiator to reflect more heat into the room.

There are also special high-heat paints (including some in spray cans) designed for radiators. Some are rated to withstand temperatures of 300 degrees and more. But you don’t really need them either, because radiators don’t get that hot.

If you’re repainting, follow the same rule that applies to walls and other surfaces, which is to use the same type of paint that was used before. Compatible paints are likely to adhere better than a mismatch, such as a coat of oil-base paint over old latex.

Finally, there are several ways to coat the nooks and crannies of a radiator. One of the easiest is to mask the surrounding area with plastic sheeting and spray on the finish. Another is to use a painting mitt (basically a furry-surfaced mitten), that substitutes for a brush. If you can’t find one, wear a rubber glove covered with a heavy cotton sock.

In a well-stocked paint store, you might also find a radiator brush that has a long handle and a bend at the ferrule that makes it somewhat easier to reach into tight spaces. Likewise, the easiest way to coat the wall behind the radiator is with spray paint, but a long- handled, bent-ferrule radiator brush works well, too.

Mike McClintock


  1. Thomas -  October 30, 2014 - 10:26 pm

    Written and produced by Amy Winehouse for her debut album
    ‘Frank’, the soul song ‘Take The Box’ was released as the album’s second single on 12 January
    2004. I’m five-foot-nine, chubby and busty,
    with wide hips and a big round ass. Now – is that stereotypical male thinking, and if it
    is, does it come from our genetic make-up or our learned experiences
    and attitudes.

  2. Nshera -  November 12, 2011 - 11:54 am

    This is amazing! I would like to learn more. I am a $_$ (a.k.a greedy) king for words. Just X-p (a.k.a joking)!!!

  3. Randall -  May 29, 2011 - 9:12 am

    How about the letter “R” ?

  4. Shaina -  May 27, 2011 - 1:38 pm

    what about ”z” the letter is just there at the end of the alphabet not many words start with z ?

  5. Marv -  May 10, 2011 - 10:40 am

    Your explanation is a bit confused, as are some of the comments. Are you trying to explain the origin of the cross-shaped sign , or the /ks/ sound? The semitic samekh is a reflex, not of the Greek chi, but of xi. However, neither had the cross form we know for X. As someone has mentioned, the tau was closer to this shape. The Greeks did use the cross shape for chi, but this was added after the letters that they inherited from the Phoenicians.

  6. louis paiz -  May 4, 2011 - 4:50 am

    to john rhea there is not such stupid question in life thats whay dictionaries exist to educate, it also call amansa “burros” because if one is so smart dictionaries would not exist. thanks

  7. Andrew -  May 3, 2011 - 11:00 am

    This has already been said, I think, but your description of the /ks/ phoneme is incorrect. A “voiceless velar fricative” is indeed what the “x” in the International Phonetic Alphabet represents, but it’s the -ch in Bach or Channukah, not /ks/. /ks/ is really just two phonemes squished together, in which case there is no difference between the “x” in fox and the “x” in excite… they are both /ks/.

  8. john rhea -  May 3, 2011 - 9:27 am

    Most of your stupid questions can be answered by putting your stupid questions in google.

  9. louis paiz -  May 3, 2011 - 4:43 am

    iwould like to know more about the letter Q also why is the simbol of measures of pesantes as in @ =25 qq=100 pounds.thanks

  10. samanths -  May 2, 2011 - 1:38 pm

    please do z its such a interesting letter

  11. Quetzal -  April 30, 2011 - 2:39 pm

    When Greek letter “Chi” came into Russian language it became a “X” which sounds like “H” in English or “J” in Spanish.

  12. ankita -  April 29, 2011 - 10:06 pm

    dats pretty cool.. it ll help me in my phonetics class.. wat about other letters.. specially U & W & V???

  13. Sue -  April 29, 2011 - 4:58 pm

    A solution for you all…….buy the book “Letter Perfect” by David Sacks. It tells the detailed history of every single letter in our Alphabet in language us “laymen and laywomen” can all understand, together with lovely humour and wit.
    I am not related to him either, I just love that book !

  14. sanmi -  April 29, 2011 - 1:47 pm

    please consider letter f.

  15. bubba -  April 29, 2011 - 12:48 pm

    I havent visited “hot word” for a while. Seems to me we used to get a new word every day. What gives? This “X” blurb has been on for three days now. Time to freshen up.
    This “HOT WORD” is not only OLD but it’s gotten very COLD.

  16. clark -  April 29, 2011 - 4:59 am

    please consider the letter J j also for during the time of Jesus there’s no such letter as J so they spelled jesus as iesus or Iesus. Kindly consider as well.

  17. clark -  April 29, 2011 - 4:57 am

    how about letter J j in Jewish alphabet there’s no such letter remember the time of Jesus wherein Jesus is spelled as iesus. Kindly consider as well.

  18. clark -  April 29, 2011 - 4:53 am

    27th letter of the alphabet is ñ or Ñ enye for spanish.

  19. lolol -  April 28, 2011 - 10:18 pm

    I have never wondered about the origens of “X”. I thought pirates made it though, as a marker on their maps.

  20. LLOOPP -  April 28, 2011 - 10:12 pm


  21. Dictionary -  April 28, 2011 - 7:12 pm

    Why are all the letters in alphabetical order? Why does it start with A and go down to Z? I don’t see why it has to go that way. Why not it go from Z-A?

  22. Michael J. Barnes -  April 28, 2011 - 7:00 pm

    There is an error in this article. The “ks” sound is NOT a voiceless velar fricative. That would be an individual consonant sound, whereas [ks] is a consonant cluster. The X symbol does represent a voiceless velar fricative in the International Phonetic Alphabet, but the sound of a voiceless velar fricative is actually the same sound we would hear in the Scottish pronunciation of “loch.”

  23. Kuya Jobert -  April 28, 2011 - 6:02 pm

    i think this letter is already tackled? you should tackle G. :D

  24. Mohammad Farooq -  April 28, 2011 - 5:58 pm

    u kno? thats really interesting :) but i would really like to know about the letters “O”, “Q”, “F”, “I”, and “M” thanks

  25. VINCENT -  April 28, 2011 - 5:33 pm


  26. SkittleE -  April 28, 2011 - 5:24 pm

    The most commonly used letter in the alphabet would be the letter I’d like to hear about next. Yep, Q. There’s your hilarious sentence of the day. Whoopee! Anyway, I’d like to hear about E next. It’s used in pretty much everything, and yet no one really thinks about it when listing letters they would like to know more about. But I for one would like to hear it!

  27. VINCENT -  April 28, 2011 - 5:22 pm

    i just would like to suggest about letter “W” THIS LETTER SHOULD PRONOUNCE DOUBLE V NOT DOUBLE U

  28. Gizzy -  April 28, 2011 - 4:56 pm

    DO the letter W

  29. Servant to Anon E. Mous -  April 28, 2011 - 4:50 pm

    Anon E. Mous asked why it is called the alphabet.
    I think that in Greek, the alphabet letters are alpha, beta, and so on, so alphabet probably just means a list of letters in a language

  30. sarah -  April 28, 2011 - 3:10 pm

    wow i never knew that a simple letter could be so confusing

  31. Queen Sardonic -  April 28, 2011 - 1:56 pm

    What about the letter “A”? Why’s it the first letter of the alphabet?

  32. \(0.0)/ -  April 28, 2011 - 1:24 pm

    “Voiceless velar fricative” ~ try saying that ten times fast!

  33. Andrew -  April 28, 2011 - 1:11 pm

    re the letters of the alphabet in that order (a,b,c,d,e,f…)/ Is there a reason?

    Please send answer 2 my email!

    THX! :D

  34. fabio -  April 28, 2011 - 1:07 pm

    Discover why “b” is such a boring letter and doesn’t sound like anything except “ba”

  35. TintaTre -  April 28, 2011 - 12:19 pm

    In Albanian, the X is pronounced as the g in AnGel for example, the name Anxhela is pronounced AnGela

    And the letter q is pronounced as CH like in CHime for example, tea could be spelled çaj or qaj pronounced Chai.

  36. Katherine -  April 28, 2011 - 7:37 am

    For those of you requesting /W/, it was actually explored a few weeks ago on here and you can probably still find the article….very interesting!

  37. Protolinguist -  April 28, 2011 - 6:11 am

    The /x/ sound – or voiceless velar fricative – is in the International Phonetic Alphabet used to denote the sound we know from Scottish ‘loch’ or (parodies of) Arabic or Dutch speech. It is, however, most definitely NOT the /ks/ sound from ‘wax’ or ‘fox’, as your article makes it seem to be.

  38. Jer -  April 28, 2011 - 5:09 am

    Besides, in Welsh the W is actually pronounced as a doubled (long) U, as in cwn = “coon”.

  39. Karen -  April 28, 2011 - 3:57 am

    What about the letter H? Seems that H plays a big supporting role, as in ch, gh, ph, sh, th, and wh. I can remember being taught that’wh’ as in ‘when’ is pronounced ‘hwen.’

  40. dang xuan vu -  April 27, 2011 - 10:38 pm

    Thank you so much for your explanations of the “X”.

  41. omega -  April 27, 2011 - 10:02 pm

    I think the origins of the letter “y” would be interesting. Why is it that it stole the uppercase upsilon (the Greek /u/) but the lowercase gamma? (Greek /g/) And its whole thing with being a vowel BUT NOT.

  42. _________ -  April 27, 2011 - 8:48 pm

    tell us about /c/

    Why is it pronounced “see”?

    Why is it paired with /h/ as the sound “tj” in “churro” or the sound “k” “Chiasmus”

  43. Something -  April 27, 2011 - 8:39 pm

    To all you people who are asking: W is double-u because cursive was how people wrote before printing. That was kind of obvious.

  44. darns -  April 27, 2011 - 7:28 pm

    the 27th letter would be nice too. =/

  45. darns -  April 27, 2011 - 7:24 pm


    what about the letter v .,in greek math it would 5.
    anythin special to that?

  46. Book Beater -  April 27, 2011 - 7:00 pm

    C Q is yanking your chain. If you accept the thorn you’d have to add the rest of the runes. If you did that you might as well add those cyrillic letters that english doesn’t use. Before you know it all language is one megabet, so un wieldy that only the energy beings of planet Claire can could communicate literately.

  47. med -  April 27, 2011 - 6:06 pm

    W because y is it double U when it is actually double V. this really bothers me!

  48. Taylor -  April 27, 2011 - 5:32 pm

    How about Q? Why is always paired with U? Why doesn’t it make the “kwuh” sound on its own?

  49. need a new name -  April 27, 2011 - 3:51 pm

    also, there is a missing 27th letter of the alphabet?!?! :P

  50. need a new name -  April 27, 2011 - 3:50 pm

    Also, I didn’t know there was a 27th letter of the alphabet?!? :P

  51. jdude -  April 27, 2011 - 3:15 pm

    how bout, J? Ain’t it cool

  52. ßrittany -  April 27, 2011 - 3:11 pm

    That was stupid to leave on an “Article” that has nothing to with what i said. So Haters, Hate.

  53. ßrittany -  April 27, 2011 - 3:10 pm

    :o Sunny D And Rum Yummm Yummmmmmm

  54. Mike McKelvy -  April 27, 2011 - 2:51 pm

    @Heyya Alphabet is from the Greek. i.e. Alpha, Beta,…

  55. ngen -  April 27, 2011 - 2:22 pm

    Why do we have so many useless letters? “C” could be kicked out. “X” also could. Why does “G” say “J” (giraffe). Why can’t we spell some sounds (J in Jacques; difference between TH in THing and THose; clicks used in African languages; etc.)

  56. kalez -  April 27, 2011 - 1:28 pm

    personally i pronounce “auxiliary” and “exhaust” with the “x” having the /ks/ sound, which i think it was meant to, but progression of language sluring gave it the /gz/ sound, in my opinion.

  57. lady swagg -  April 27, 2011 - 11:59 am

    that is amazing what about oooooooooooooooooooooooo’s

  58. Cyberquill -  April 27, 2011 - 10:15 am

    I’d like you to investigate the missing 27th letter of the alphabet.

  59. Flayva -  April 27, 2011 - 9:12 am

    I know this is not a letter, but I’m interested in the combination of the letters S and U, as in sugar and sure. Are these the only two time these letters combine to form the sh sound? If so, why did the spelling evolve in this way?

  60. Erika -  April 27, 2011 - 8:57 am

    why is it called double-U and not double-V? it looks like two V’s not two U’s. vv w VV W <<<<< you can hardley tell a difference! UU W uu w …….. ??????????

  61. Franco Abacedefi -  April 27, 2011 - 8:39 am

    Nick “What about “W”? Why is it “double-U” when it is actually “Double-V”? When did it make the switch?”

    Only in the USA and the UK. IN Europe, the mainland, where the alphabet was born, is actually still a double V :)

    THe ROman alphabet doesnt have a W or even a V. Theirs V is actually an U. But when the English needed a new word they combined two Romans V Vs to make a W.

  62. Stan Dupp -  April 27, 2011 - 8:25 am

    People are asking for “W” to be covered – I find it interesting that words are spelled ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’, but they are pronounced ‘hwat’, ‘hwy’, ‘hwere’?

  63. Feya -  April 27, 2011 - 6:41 am

    Are you sure about the word Fish in Arabic. It is spelled and pronounced Samak until today, and not ending with the sound of kh.

  64. shene -  April 27, 2011 - 5:57 am

    thats very interesting! for the next time i like to investigate the letter “S”

  65. Heyya -  April 27, 2011 - 3:19 am

    “Anon E. Mous on April 26, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Yo could research the letter “A”. Why does it have so many sounds? And why is it listed first in the Alphabet? Also, why is it called the “Alphabet”? There is, indeed, much to learn about even the most common of things in life.”

    I don’t know much about “A” but it’s the start of my name! anyway i’m guessing it’s called the “Alphabet” because of the first 2 letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta just say it to yourself, alpha, beta, alphabet

  66. Stelios I. -  April 27, 2011 - 2:24 am

    I would just like to make clear one more thing, that I noticed may seem confusing in my post above: Euboia is in Greece, and Kyme was its colony in Italy.

  67. Joe Barnett -  April 27, 2011 - 2:22 am

    As a phonetician I find the letter R most intriguing. All the languages I am familiar with have such a phoneme, yet the pronunciation can vary dramatically. In some languages the R is represented by non-Latin letters (e.g. Hebrew, Arabic) and foreign learners often substitute their own ‘R sound.’ Some languages pronounce their R in the front of the mouth, while others use the back. Some languages have some of their dialects using the front R and others using the back R (e.g. French, German). Japanese merges R with L. The matter of articulation of R can be a flap (Spanish) or a roll (Spanish, Arabic) or a fricative (Northern French) or a frictionless continuant (e.g. English). Question: How can one phoneme be recognized as such despite the wide range of pronunciations?

  68. Stelios I. -  April 27, 2011 - 2:19 am

    This is in response to some of the comments above and to information in the article:
    In typical Ionian Greek, “X” (“chi”) would stand for the /x/ sound as in a guttural /ch/ like in “Loch” only a bit less stark, while “Ξ” was used for the /ks/ sound. This remains how these letters are pronounced in modern Greek as well. However, the Chalchidian alphabet would use the letter “X” for the /ks/ sound instead, and the letter “Ψ” in place of the normal “X” (“chi”, /x/) that Eastern Greek alphabets would use, as in the Ionian city-states (or in Athens from 403 B.C.). This Chalchidian version of the alphabet that was used in the Greek city-state of Region (Ρήγιον) — founded by citizens of Kyme (Κύμη) in Calabria, Italy, Kyme being a colony of Euboia (Εύβοια) in Greece — was indeed what the Romans borrowed for their Latin version. The alphabet of Region featured a few more letters not commonly used in Classical Ionian Greek versions, namely F (= f or v), H (= h) and Q (= q), which do survive to this day in the Western European alphabets, but not in the Greek alphabet. The use of these 3 letters had long been abandoned in the Eastern Greek alphabets, such as the Ionian, though they had been present several centuries before, as evidence in pottery inscriptions suggests. From 403 B.C., when Athens officially adopted the Ionian alphabet, this latter one gained a predominant place among all other versions of the Greek alphabet.

  69. Devashish -  April 27, 2011 - 2:10 am

    Enough we have now on X. It is really exciting to see & learn from the feedbacks & responses.Viewers input were more enlighting. Thanx, as it invoked teasers by your write up.
    Won’t you like to continue with the genesis of other letters of English aphabet?

  70. Linda -  April 26, 2011 - 11:09 pm

    Love all the cultural histories for the letter ‘x’. In addition for standing for an unknown [as in a math equation], it was also used to represent a signature and probably carried a distinctive style of its owner.

  71. Ruth -  April 26, 2011 - 9:44 pm


    Perhaps there is a C for the expansion of the English language: sell and cell??? Don’t forget chuck… Khukk is not a very attractive word!!


  72. Kuya Jobert -  April 26, 2011 - 9:41 pm

    i think x is tackled already? you should tackle U :)

  73. Asad -  April 26, 2011 - 8:37 pm

    In transliterating Urdu (official language of Pakistan), some authors use x for a sound that is akin to the “ch” of “Loch Ness” or “Chanukkah.” For instance, they would write “xuda hafiz” for a traditional Urdu greeting that means, “May God be your Protector.”

  74. steini walker -  April 26, 2011 - 6:44 pm

    Also note the shape is used in the Runic scripts as Gebo; a giving or gifts/wealth G can also be pronounced as eGGs, rendering an eks, or x.

  75. liliil=loves=God -  April 26, 2011 - 6:41 pm

    the x has always been a groovy letter to me and i think it is interesting and exotic and not really comon

  76. Marco A Cruz -  April 26, 2011 - 6:39 pm

    “Itzcuintli” in nahuatl means ‘naked’, ‘nude’, because this dog is almost hairless.

  77. Xikirealsexy -  April 26, 2011 - 6:36 pm

    im sexy becuase my name starrts with x.
    x rocks iknowthat

  78. Book Beater -  April 26, 2011 - 6:20 pm

    To all Those W and QU fans we covered them recently in the hot word along with J and I perhaps the’re still in the queue.
    I for one was egzasperated with the cavalier use of the gz phoneme so I egzosted myself egzamining d.coms’ pronunciation feature and decided to egzcoriate them on this topic. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

  79. Sue P -  April 26, 2011 - 4:58 pm

    My neighbors have adopted an unusual dog- a “xolo”, which they pronounce “show-low” Sh is a different sound for X from those listed above.(Maybe it is a Spanish pronunciation?)
    I found this history on the web:
    Xoloitzcuintle (also spelled xoloitzcuintli) is a hairless and very rare dog breed that is thought to have originated in Asia or Africa and ultimately brought to South American by traders. Most often this dog breed’s name is shortened to Xolo for obvious reasons – but if you want to know how to pronounce its full name, it is show-low-ee-squint-lee. The name is derived from the Aztec god Xoloti. In Mexico they are popularly known as Itzcuintles

  80. Luck in W -  April 26, 2011 - 4:11 pm

    When it comes to transliteration from other languages, X can have other sounds as well. For instance, the Mayan city of Uxmal, is pronounced “ushmal” and Xibalba is “shibalba.” I always pronounced the latter with a Scottish “ch.” That reminds me of a “bet-you-can’t-pronounce-this sentence with which the Scots love to tease foreigners, “It’s a bricht licht moonlicht nicht tonicht.”

    Some Chinese names, including people’s names also begin with an X or contain one and I never know how to pronounce them. Does anyone have any knowledge of that?

  81. Felicity -  April 26, 2011 - 3:48 pm

    nick and johnny B-
    “W” got it’s name from what used to represent the /w/ sound; two “U” (“uu”) ;)

  82. wallpostr -  April 26, 2011 - 3:27 pm

    hey Johnny B

    Its called double U because of the phonetian letter it was derived from.

  83. linguisticsfanatic -  April 26, 2011 - 3:25 pm

    Oh wait…. Bahahahahahahahahahah. Sorry, Durst, I misunderstood. Hahahah. Sorry.

  84. linguisticsfanatic -  April 26, 2011 - 3:21 pm

    W is called “double U” likely because it was originally written like two U’s. Just look at old script. Or think about learning cursive in 3rd grade (if you’re old enough). It’s a U-shape.

    Also, transliteration doesn’t make an “sh” sound, Richard Durst….

    Y would be interesting too. It’s rare role as a vowel. Why. Gym.
    Q as well. As others stated, the U follows Q factor is curious.

  85. Humpty -  April 26, 2011 - 3:04 pm

    Eggs… it always boils down to eggs!

  86. Johnny B -  April 26, 2011 - 2:53 pm

    Why is “W” double U, not called the “double V”?

  87. Jodie -  April 26, 2011 - 2:43 pm

    Interesting article. I’d like to learn more about the letter ‘W’, Why is it double ‘U’, not double ‘V’, and why is it often paired with an ‘H’?

  88. tinker bell -  April 26, 2011 - 2:40 pm

    I was wondering why we have the letter “Q”. And why is it paired with “U” all the time in the English language? It just makes it more confusing than it already can be.

  89. hksche2000 -  April 26, 2011 - 2:24 pm

    “Why is ‘xylophone’ pronounced as ‘zylophone’ instead?”

    Answer: Because english pronounciation has little rhyme or reason. Xylophone, of course, is derived from the greek “xylos” (wood) and “phonos” (sound), xylos being pronounced xylos as in Xerxes. That’s why in German, for example, xylophone is pronounced the original greek way: (xylo-phon) instead of (zailo-phone).

    The rhymes and reasons of english pronounciation, or the lack thereof, might provide some interesting food for thought to the Hot Word editors.

    Thanks for the fun ball-of-wax story about the origins of the letter X as well as your previous one on the meaning of X!

  90. Domino -  April 26, 2011 - 1:54 pm

    Mr. Richard Durst is correct in his comment that “x” is also pronounced “sh.” The Mayas in Yucatan and Quintana Roo in Mexico pronounce it that way when referring to, among other things, the Maya archeological sites in Uxmal and Xel-ha.

  91. mailmindlin -  April 26, 2011 - 1:37 pm

    sorry- i spelled do doo in the comment above

  92. mailmindlin -  April 26, 2011 - 1:36 pm


    you’re right about that you should have a k, but why doo we need a c?
    kick could be kik, and celery could be selery.

  93. HeloniLynn -  April 26, 2011 - 1:21 pm

    I want to know what practical use we have for the letter “c” – all it does is rip off other letters’ jobs. Seriously – it makes a “k” and an “s” sound. The only time C is actually important is for ch-ch-ch noises… and I think it would only take a little stretch of the imagination to convert those to “sh” noises. Then we’d all sound like we have speech impediments… “Excuse me, what kind of animal is that?” “Why, it’s a SHinShilla!”

  94. Matt J. -  April 26, 2011 - 1:07 pm

    Somethings don’t sound right in this history: 1) ‘samekh’? That is the name for the dull ‘s’ sound in the Hebrew alphabet, derived from Phoenician. So why would it be used for such unrelated sounds? 2) The Phoenician ‘samekh’ looks more like the Greek ‘ksi’ than like a Roman X (or a Greek ‘chi”) 3) The Roman Alphabet IS mainly West Greek. If the West Greeks were already using ‘X’, why did the Romans need to refer to the ‘Chalcidian’ at all? 4) the Phoenician letter that really DOES look like our modern ‘X’ was the Tau. 5) it really needs to be explained that the alphabet we NOW think of at ‘THE’ Greek alphabet is a late version of the Ionic alphabet.

  95. Hamachisn't -  April 26, 2011 - 1:03 pm

    I’m getting on queue and giving you a cue to write about the letter Q. Por que, you may ask… but for that I haven’t got a good answer (sorry).


  96. AUGUST BURNS RED! fan!!:) -  April 26, 2011 - 12:54 pm

    wow now it makes since im teling my algerba techer why x is uesd

  97. Michelle -  April 26, 2011 - 12:26 pm

    How about Q? I love the shape of it and the sound it makes. Why is it always paired with U, and where did it come from?

  98. bubba -  April 26, 2011 - 12:02 pm

    What a read! I’m eXausted!!

  99. Scarlett -  April 26, 2011 - 11:39 am

    I was wondering if you have done Q before. If you have, pay me no mind, but if you haven’t, would you? It is my favorite letter and I have always wondered why it is always paired with U.

  100. Anonymous Coward -  April 26, 2011 - 11:36 am

    You could expand the investigation into geometrical properties, mirroring, both up/down and sideways, the difference between lower and upper case, usage in symbolism and esoteric traditions.

    X – Cross
    I – Eye
    U – You
    C – See

  101. Guardo -  April 26, 2011 - 11:34 am

    Another albeit obscure but nonetheless omitted pronunciation was the “h” sound of a properly pronounced “Xavier.”

  102. Ruth -  April 26, 2011 - 11:30 am


    Because the letter C makes a “s” sound when placed in front of Es and Is, as in cent and civil, we need the letter K to make that hard /k/ sound in front of the letters E and I. The word keep would sound like seep with a C (ceep) and kick just wouldn’t work either (cick).

    Cs work brilliantly in front of As, Os, and Us, though.

  103. enchanting catalyst -  April 26, 2011 - 10:56 am

    “sioux” is also a French loan word, of a sort. It’s a French approximation of an Oneida name for the people of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota linguistic group.

  104. MimiSimone -  April 26, 2011 - 10:38 am

    The letter /v/

  105. Jade -  April 26, 2011 - 10:29 am

    Well that’s cool,And a bit wierd. It makes me think. wich thinking is hard.

  106. AgapeLion -  April 26, 2011 - 10:23 am

    Hello, I am glad that you have broadened this site to be more interactive with the community that enjoys learning.
    As far as this article is concerned, it seems that there are some disagreements with the usage of the word Chi as part of the of the history of the letter X.
    I wondered how you investigate the meaning of these words, what are your sources for this information?

  107. Lorax -  April 26, 2011 - 9:53 am

    How eXiting! ;) I’m curios about why the alphabet is in a certain order and if there’s a specific reason. And why is C a letter? I mean, K makes a hard c sound, and s makes the soft c sound. So what the heck is K for?? N’kay, that’s all. :D

  108. Anon E. Mous -  April 26, 2011 - 9:20 am

    Richard Durst, Cheeser and Courtenay Rule have all spotted the many mistakes in your writing. All of them are entirely correct. If you are going to research something, make sure your sources are correct or you will lose all credibility that people once held in you. I do appreciate the work you put into it, but you simply must make sure you are correct for you never know when someone might read it and spot an error. Simply a convivial suggestion.

  109. word junkie -  April 26, 2011 - 9:14 am

    I am really enjoying the letter series. I think you should just start at A, and go through the entire thing. Save the ones already covered, of course.

  110. Anon E. Mous -  April 26, 2011 - 9:12 am

    Yo could research the letter “A”. Why does it have so many sounds? And why is it listed first in the Alphabet? Also, why is it called the “Alphabet”? There is, indeed, much to learn about even the most common of things in life.

  111. fox -  April 26, 2011 - 9:11 am

    what about the letter v it’s the first letter of my name -Vlad-

  112. AJones -  April 26, 2011 - 8:44 am

    What about the letter “s”?

  113. monkey -  April 26, 2011 - 8:38 am


  114. boo -  April 26, 2011 - 8:38 am


  115. Richard Durst -  April 26, 2011 - 8:15 am

    Courtenay Rule is correct. I had to re-read the article, because at first I thought it was just confusingly worded, but the following section is patently incorrect.

    > Originally used by the Phoenicians to represent the /s/ consonant
    > (denoting a hard “s” sound), the Greeks borrowed the samekh around
    > 900 BC and named it “Chi.”
    > The ancient Greeks utilized their newly acquired phonological element
    > to simplify the digraph (a pair of letters representing a single
    > speech sound) /ks/ – used most prominently throughout the western
    > regions of Greece.

    Chi was a completely different letter, unrelated to the letter Xi which held the “ks” pronunciation. When the Romans were borrowing wholesale from Greek culture, they conflated the symbol of Chi with the pronunciation of Xi, giving us the Latin X that descended into English. How and why this happened, I don’t know, and was actually hoping this article would hold the answer. Rather disappointing.

  116. Richard Durst -  April 26, 2011 - 8:07 am

    You missed a pronunciation. X can also be read as a “sh” sound, especially in transliteration.

  117. Cheeser -  April 26, 2011 - 8:05 am

    Interesting article, but one error at the end: the letter x having the /ks/ sound is actually NOT a ‘voiceless velar fricative’. This phonetic description is actually the sound found in the Scottish pronunciation of ‘loch’ or the German ‘Bach’ (not common in standard English). The /ks/ sound would be better described as a ‘voiceless velar affricative’, but even then some phoneticians would disagree with this for more complicated reasons.

  118. blackwolff9 -  April 26, 2011 - 8:02 am

    @KLB: eXcellent response!☺

  119. Girl with a pen by her side -  April 26, 2011 - 7:50 am

    what about the letter – z- anything special to report?

  120. KLB -  April 26, 2011 - 7:05 am

    eXciting article :-D

  121. Xx-POP_POP-xX -  April 26, 2011 - 7:04 am

    X the is great letter having such a checker past is what makes it cool

  122. linguisticsfanatic -  April 26, 2011 - 6:28 am

    W or Z would be fascinating to learn about.

  123. Miri Mora Mau -  April 26, 2011 - 6:28 am

    Great post! I hadn’t made that relationship with maths but now that I read it, it makes complete sense.
    I would like to know more about vowels, because of the several phonemes they adopt according to the position in a word. Or maybe about the at sign “@”, which have become very popular with the arrival of the internet.
    Thank you.

  124. Nick -  April 26, 2011 - 6:14 am

    What about “W”? Why is it “double-U” when it is actually “Double-V”? When did it make the switch?

  125. GossipX -  April 26, 2011 - 5:58 am

    X.O.X.O :)

  126. Paloma -  April 26, 2011 - 5:57 am


    I love this kind of investigation… I would like to read more about the letter “y” also borrowed from the Greek and especially the varying ways in which it is used as a consonant or a vowel and the different pronunciations in different languages (i.e. in German where it has kept the original Greek sound.

    Thank you!

  127. Elishamod -  April 26, 2011 - 5:51 am

    the letter V!
    Whence did it come?

  128. Sam_S -  April 26, 2011 - 5:28 am

    This is very interesting! :)

    Never knew this at all!

  129. Courtenay Rule -  April 26, 2011 - 5:10 am

    Excuse me, but the Greek letter “chi” (which does look like an X) is not used in Greek for the /ks/ sound. “Chi” is used for the hard, guttural /ch/ sound we hear in German and some other languages (e.g. Scots “loch”). The Greek letter “xi” (which, confusingly, doesn’t look a thing like an X) is the one pronounced as /ks/.

  130. Mtn Dew girl -  April 26, 2011 - 4:44 am

    This was a really stupid read.

  131. cutiepup12 -  April 26, 2011 - 4:32 am

    cool first comment-anyway that article is really interesting

  132. xirus -  April 26, 2011 - 4:28 am

    i love the letter “X”. having a name that starts with “X”, Xirus is always a conversation starter. i like that “X” is sometimes used to represent the unknown. that fits my personality. it’s good to be a little mysterious. thanks letter “X”!

  133. Tree -  April 26, 2011 - 4:22 am


  134. Ataur Rahman -  April 26, 2011 - 4:13 am

    Well Thanks for the information…..

  135. Anonymous -  April 26, 2011 - 4:11 am


  136. JJ Rousseau -  April 26, 2011 - 4:10 am

    The Letter-X is the spot or solution to the problem, is it not? What was the question? Qui?

  137. tahrey -  April 26, 2011 - 3:58 am

    I think your mileage may vary as concerns the “gz”, “hard k” and “kzh” sounds… or in other words it depends where you live. I’ve heard enough people round me pronounce all those example words with a “ks” and it seems fairly normal (auksiliary, eks(h)aust, exscite, luksury…). Not to mention mashing some of the actual “ks”es into other phonemes (wakzh… fogz… tagzi/takzhi… ekzhaust… lugzury… etc etc).

    It’s even more of a chameleon than you first thought, really!

  138. Brendan Upton -  April 26, 2011 - 2:46 am

    Please investigate ‘W’ I’d like to know why it has a 3 syllable name and why it is so commonly paired with ‘H’ (why, where, what, white, while, who et al.)

  139. ... -  April 26, 2011 - 1:21 am

    Why is ‘xylophone’ pronounced as ‘zylophone’ instead?

  140. GRACE SUAREZ -  April 26, 2011 - 1:16 am

    how about Z? it has a different stroke and howcome it’s the last letter in the alphabet?


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