In a nutshell
Most commonly, ‘x’ is pronounced with the ‘ks’ sound heard at the end of ‘box’. However, it can also be pronounced with a ‘gz’ sound, as in ‘exact’, and, when heard at the start of words it usually has a ‘z’ sound’ as in ‘xylophone’.
Letter x song
This is a typically upbeat song by Have Fun Teaching all about the letter x:
Letter x ‘lecture’
This is a cute old clip from Sesame Street showing how rare the letter x is, and also showing some simple words that end in ‘x’:
A rare letter
‘X’ takes out the bronze medal for lack of usage – only ‘q’ and ‘z’ appear less frequently in English. But when it comes to the start of words, ‘x’ is in a class of its own, being by far the least commonly used letter – if you sampled a random passage containing 10,000 words only 3 or 4 would be likely to start with ‘x’ – as opposed to 1,700 or so that would start with ‘t’.
Most people don’t have any trouble correctly pronouncing ‘xylophone’ and ‘Xerox’. However, quite a few incorrectly pronounce the first name ‘Xavier’ as if it were ‘Eksavier’. Don’t do this! Remember that at the start of a word (except in hyphenated words like ‘x-ray’) ‘x’ takes a ‘z’ sound.
Unnecessary but useful
The letter ‘x’ is one of the few letters that does not make a unique sound. In every word that ‘x’ is in, other letters could take its place without any trouble, for example: ‘It looked egzactly like the boks my zylophone had arrived in.’
But while ‘x’ may hardly be necessary in written English (or maybe because of this reason) it has been put to a multitude of other uses, often denoting something that is unknown or puzzling. Here are just a few examples:
– In algebra, x means an unknown amount
– In Roman numerals, X means 10
– X means ‘wrong’ in a test
– Generation X refers to the generation born after the baby boomers but before Generation Y
– ‘X factor’ refers to something mysterious but impressive
– Illiterate people supposedly mark their name with an x
– X-rays were named as such because it was unknown what type of rays they were
– X is used as a short form for ‘kiss’ at the end of letters and cards
– In popular culture, pirates often have maps on which ‘x marks the spot’ ie where treasure is buried
– One of the two gender specific chromosomes is the ‘x chromosome’. Women have two x chromosomes; men have one x and one y.
Try saying this one five times very quickly:
The excited experts explained that the extra x-rays were excellent.
The Letter X Worksheets
This letter x worksheet gives your child lots of opportunities to practice writing capital X.
This letter x worksheet focuses on the lower case letter x.
This worksheet gives your child an introduction to the basic sound that ‘x’ makes, and also allows them to practice writing the capital and lower case letter x.
This worksheet provides a further opportunity for your child to become familiar with the letter x sound.