X is for… Xmas

This seasonal four letter word has the ability to evoke strong feelings in many.  Many feel that this common abbreviation for Christmas is lazy at best, and blasphemous at worst; it appears to take Christ out of Christmas, replacing Christ’s name with an anonymous X.  Many newspapers, websites and others have styling guides that encourage avoidance of its use.


But look a little closer and you’ll see that this word has a very long history.  The “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός (Christos = Christ).  There are references to the word Christ itself being abbreviated to “Xρ” or “Xt” as far back as 1021.  This is not really surprising when you remember that the gospels had to be handwritten and the name Christ appeared many, many times. Using abbreviations saved both time and space, the latter being particularly important as parchment was expensive.  The Oxford English Dictionary cites usage of Xtianity for Christianity from 1634 and the use of Xmas dates back to at least the start of the 19th century.  The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in a letter in 1801, “On Xmas Day I breakfasted with Davy”, and Lord Byron and Lewis Carroll used the term too.


Now that I know I’m not just being lazy, I may use the term  more.  What about you?

Linked to Tagged X, Alphabe Thursday and ABCW.

22 thoughts on “X is for… Xmas

  1. I never found the x to be offensive just always preferred to use the unabbreviated word. Your research has given me a greater understanding of why Xmas came in to use, I love learning things from the blogging community!


  2. I knew people often objected to taking Christ out of Christmas, but now I know that isn’t really true. Thank you so much for a very informative post.


  3. A very cool post and it is so true that is from the Greek alphabet! When my hubby studied two years at a Bible College New Testament Greek I use to tease him saying “That’s Greek to me!” He learned a lot, had a wonderful teacher and all my years at Catholic school filled me with much Latin and the two languages are both so unique. I like too know what I am saying before I complain to someone! This is a very informative post but oh goodness, Christmas will be here before we know it! Whew! Thank you for sharing and enjoy a wonderful week. Hugs, Anne


  4. I like the sound of the word Christmas better but either version does me. Some of a more pedantic nature object because its a combination of Greek and Latin although in that case we would have to think of another name for television.


  5. I am a Christian and I don’t find Xmas particularly offensive, particularly after reading up about it .
    merry Christmas,
    Best wishes,


  6. This ‘Xmas’ notation is very popular here in Japan. Some teachers and instructors argue that it is one of ‘Janglish’ expression and that English natives do not understand. They sometimes argue that ‘Xmas’ is something frowned upon. Your post was very interesting to me. I said to myself “It is not ‘Janglish’ after all!” 😉
    Happy holidays!


  7. thank you for your detailed research, Debbie: “The Oxford English Dictionary cites usage of Xtianity for Christianity from 1634 and the use of Xmas dates back to at least the start of the 19th century…”


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