How Many Words Begin With X?
The letter ‘x’ is comparatively rare in English, especially when used to begin words. The dictionary on this website, which covers today’s English, contains about 120 words that start with ‘x’, from X itself (a noun which, among other things, is used to refer to an X-shape) toxystus (a long portico in which athletes used to exercise in ancient Greece). This total includes names of people, places, and events (such as Xenophon and Xingtai).
The much larger and historical Oxford English Dictionary, which includes rare words and obsolete terms that aren’t used in current English, but which doesn’t cover proper names, contains around 400 words that begin with ‘x’. Some of the more obscure ones are the wonderful xanthodontous, which means ‘having yellow teeth’ and xsturgy, a very rare word only recorded in 1592, meaning ‘the process of polishing’.
Many ‘x’ words in English derive from Greek sources, such as xenos (‘stranger’), which gave us xenophobia, and xulos, meaning ‘wood’, from which we have xylophone and xylography (‘the art of engraving on wood’). The ‘x’ section of the dictionary also includes a high proportion of scientific and technical terms, such as xanthic (meaning ‘yellowish’) and xiphoid (‘sword-shaped’).
How many words can you think of beginning with the letter ‘x’?
A lot of people may instinctively respond with xylophone, as this is often used in alphabet books for children.
But as we mentioned above, there are many more. Limiting ourselves to words of eight letters or fewer (and thus not including the nine-letter word xylophone), we have found forty words beginning with x that we listed below.
As you might expect, very few of these are in everyday use – with an exception being the informal abbreviation Xmas (for Christmas). Many of these x- words are scientific (such as the polysaccharide xanthan and the chemical compounds xanthate and xanthene) but others could have common applications – xeric meaning ‘very dry’, for example. Whether or not you’d be likely to use these words in casual conversation, they may well be useful for word games…
|xanthate||a chemical compound|
|xanthene||a chemical compound|
|xanthin||a yellow colouring matter|
|xanthine||a biochemical compound|
|xanthoma||a yellow patch on the skin|
|xebec||a sailing ship|
|xeme||a fork-tailed gull|
|xenia||gifts to a guest or guests|
|xenial||relating to hospitality|
|xenogamy||type of flower fertilization|
|xenolith||piece of rock brought in from another area|
|xenology||the study of alien biology|
|xenon||a gaseous chemical element|
|xenotime||a yellowish-brown mineral|
|xeroma||abnormal dryness of a body part|
|Xhosa||a South African people or their language|
|xi||a Greek letter|
|Xiang||a dialect of Chinese|
|xoanon||a wooden image of a god|
|xography||a photographic process|
|xu||a Vietnamese unit of money|
|xylan||a compound found in wood|
|xylary||of or relating to xylem|
|xylene||a liquid hydrocarbon|
|xylite||a volatile liquid|
|xylitol||a chemical substance|
|xylose||a plant sugar|
|xyrid||a sedge-like herb|
|xyster||a surgical instrument|
|xyston||an ancient Greek spear|
|xystus||an ancient Greek portico|