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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Starts with X

Recently something funny happened and I decided that the story was one I should share on my blog. If you have kids, you’ll relate to this and if you don’t, I think it still will be amusing.

One of my kiddos came home from school with an assignment to draw five things that start with X. We knocked three out right away: xylophone, X-ray and Xerox.

And then we ground to a halt. We were stumped.

So I did a search online for words that start with X. They exist, but they’re obscure words that aren’t easily drawn. I suppose we could try to draw Xylitol, the sweetner. And there’s xylograph, an engraving done in wood. But it was getting late in the day and we decided to put the homework aside until the next day.

Still, I thought it was amazing that we have so few words in our everyday language that start with x.

Since I love sharing the weird things that capture my attention, allow me to list a few words I found online that are especially confusing (and long) and start with X. I will include definitions in case (like me) you are bewildered by the seemingly random collections of constants with the occasional vowel:

·         Xylyl (a group of atoms derived from xylene)

·         Xylene (any of three colorless flammable isomeric benzene derivatives, C8H10, obtained from wood and coal tar. I tried to find a user-friendly way to define Xylene but it just wasn’t happening so this is the definition I found online, verbatim.)

·         Xu (Vietnamese money)

·         Xyst (a covered walkway in ancient Greece or ancient Rome)

·         Xerophthalmia (extreme dryness of the eye due to a lack of vitamin A)

·         Xerophyte (a plant that survives with little water)

·         Xanthine (a compound found in humans, certain plants and in animal tissue)

·         xylophagous (feeding on wood, as in beetles, etc)

Most of the words I listed above are scientific, but I don’t work in a science lab so I’m not saying many words starting with X on a daily basis. And none of the terms above has come home on our sight words flashcards. (Thank Heavens.)

This research did jog my memory a little. I recalled that “xeriscape” is a word I see regularly, especially here in San Diego, where we need to save water by planting things that don’t need a lot of water.

I wondered how many words start with X, as opposed to other letters in the English alphabet. The accounts vary but I found helpful info on one website (compiled by someone who wrote a JAVA computer program to count English words starting with each letter).

According to, here are some interesting facts about letters:

The letter S starts 25,333 words in the English language—making it the letter that starts the most words. 10.6% of the words tallied begin with S. (Given that my name starts with S I think this is a wonderful statistic and it makes me happy.)

The letter X is at the very bottom of the list. There are 384 words in the English language beginning with X (this is .16% of all words tallied). I knew I wasn’t imagining how hard it was to think of words starting with x!

This story has a funny ending. The day after we racked our brains to find X words, a note came home from school. The note said that the words on the X page did not need to start with X, after all. The words could have an X in them, somewhere. (Much better.) I quickly came up with a handful of (one-syllable) words I mastered once upon a time when I was in Kindergarten. Six. Mix. Ox. Fox. Box. Ax. Max. Tax. Wax. Hex. Tex-Mex. (Ahh, nothing like a rhyme.) And then I began pondering why so many words in English end in “cks” but make an “x” sound, like trucks, ticks, snacks and decks. But hey, that’s probably a post for another day…



  1. Love this...and I would love to see all the pictures kids drew of "x" words. Oh yah, and what about X-men!

  2. Man, I didn't think of that. Go, Kim! You will be so prepared to be the official homework consultant by the time your son hits school.

  3. I *love* xylophagous--sounds like an snuffolapagous-like, xylophone-eating animal! But actually xerophthalmia is a word I use, not infrequently! Haha! It comes up a lot!

    1. Eeek! That is quite a word. Funny...

  4. Sarah, I think you did an x-ellent job with this. It really makes one think! All if this is so x-citing! Love, your x-tra special Auntie E.

  5. Thanks, Auntie! It practically wrote itself...

  6. Boy am I glad we didn't have that assignment! Sounds like it was meant for you to take on that project. Now I know where to turn to!

  7. It's funny--these moments happen and they scream out, "Write a blog post about me!"