Have you ever ended a correspondence with XXXX or XOXO? 

In letter-writing etiquette, X’s signify kisses and O’s signify hugs. But where did this come from?

There are many speculations as to origins. An X looks like a kiss, maybe even sounds like a kiss, an O looks like a physical hug. 

Historically, X is the first Greek letter in the name of Christ, and with the onset of Christianity, it came to represent the cross. Thus, in medieval times, letters were sealed with an X, a kiss of faith. It also became more popular as a signature since few people could write, and X is a simple symbol.  

The Oxford English Dictionary attributes the first recorded use of X as a kiss to a 1763 letter by Gilbert White: “I am with many a xxxxxxx and many a Pater noster (Our Father) and Ave Maria (Hail Mary), Gil White.”

Winston Churchill is also one of the first to have used the symbol to denote kisses in a letter written in 1894: “Please excuse bad writing as I am in an awful hurry. (Many kisses.) xxx WSC.”

Much less is known about O. Although it may have also evolved as a signature for the illiterate who, perhaps in opposition of the crucifix, refused to sign with an X.

The origins of X and O together is yet another question. Could it be related to the game of tic-tac-toe from ancient Egypt and Rome?

One of the earliest mention of joined X’s and O’s is a 1960s letter to the Fort Pierce News Tribune in Florida: “Dear Santa, How are you? I am fine […] Will you please bring me a play rifle and […] please Love & Kisses XOXOXO DAVY MIKEY & CHERYL.”

Today, with the prevalence of emojis, will the X and O continue to be a part of our written language? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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