What is the origin of xox used to mean kisses and hugs?

  • 5
    Well, color me surprised, I was thinking of something completely different when I clicked on this question.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 21, 2010 at 19:11
  • My first guess was that it's some sort of an onomatopoeic abbreviation, but Wikipedia points out that there's also an XOX, where the O means a hug. Apparently, you can also write XOXO, or XOOX, or in fact combine the two letters in any way you like. (The strange thing is that personally, I'd rather associate an O with a kiss and an X with a hug than the other way round.)
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 21, 2010 at 19:34
  • 1
    @RegDwight: You can imagine the O like two U joined together. I would think that an onomatopoeia would remember, or imitate a sound; pronouncing XXX doesn't make me think of the sound made from a kiss.
    – apaderno
    Aug 21, 2010 at 22:08
  • 3
    I wasn't thinking of the sound of a kiss, but rather of the sound of the words "kiss kiss kiss" in rapid succession. Hence the "some sort of an onomatopoeic abbreviation" rather than just "onomatopoeia". Of course, this was rather far-fetched, but then again I'm not exactly presenting it as a valid theory in an answer, but rather as a provably wrong first guess in a comment.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 21, 2010 at 23:00
  • In what circles does xox mean "hugs and kisses"? I don't think it's mainstream. X for kisses is common of course.
    – slim
    Jan 19, 2012 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


There are a number of claims as to how X came to stand for "kiss"; if you're interested you can read more at:

  • How Valentine's Day Works

    How about the "X" sign representing a kiss? This tradition started with the Medieval practice of allowing those who could not write to sign documents with an "X". This was done before witnesses, and the signer placed a kiss upon the "X" to show sincerity. This is how the kiss came to be synonymous with the letter "X", and how the "X" came to be commonly used at the end of letters as kiss symbols. (Some believed "X" was chosen as a variation on the cross symbol, while others believe it might have been a pledge in the name of Christ, since the "X"—or Chi symbol—is the twenty-second letter of the Greek alphabet and has been used in church history to represent Christ.)

  • Why Does X Stand for a Kiss?

    However, the prosaic explanation of this romantic sign may be twofold. Originally it represented the formalized, stylized pictures of 2 mouths X touching each other--X. But then, a little more complicated, the kiss entered the cross by a chain of events and really owes everything to men's lack of education.

    Early illiterates signed documents with a cross. They did so for an obvious reason. A cross was so simple to draw, and yet, being also a sacred symbol, implied the promise of truth. But to solemnly confirm further the veracity of what had been endorsed thus, the writer kissed his 'signature,' as he was accustomed to do with the holy book. And that is how, finally, by its very association, the cross came to be identified with a kiss.

  • Online Etymology Dictionary

    As a symbol of a kiss on a letter, etc., it is recorded from 1765.

  • 2
    The linked question has now been deleted, and the other links don't answer O for hug, only X for kiss. What's the origin of O for hug?
    – Hugo
    Nov 24, 2011 at 11:59
  • Those first two references seem like really dubious folk etymology.
    – mattdm
    Nov 27, 2017 at 2:06

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