Xmas is a common abbreviation of the word Christmas. It is sometimes
pronounced /ˈɛksməs/, but Xmas, and variants such as Xtemass,
originated as handwriting abbreviations for the typical pronunciation
/ˈkrɪsməs/. The "X" comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the
first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which in English is
"Christ". The "-mas" part is from the Latin-derived Old English
word for Mass.
There is a common misconception that the word
Xmas stems from a
secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by
taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas", but its use dates back to the
1 Style guides and etiquette
2.1 Use in English
2.2 Use of "X" for "Christ"
2.2.1 Other uses of "X(t)" for "Chris(t)-"
3 In popular culture
4 See also
7 External links
Style guides and etiquette
"Xmas" is deprecated by some modern style guides, including those at
the New York Times, The Times, The Guardian, and the BBC.
Millicent Fenwick, in the 1948 Vogue's Book of Etiquette, states that
"'Xmas' should never be used" in greeting cards. The Cambridge
Guide to Australian English Usage states that the spelling should be
considered informal and restricted to contexts where concision is
valued, such as headlines and greeting cards. The Christian
Writer's Manual of Style, while acknowledging the ancient and
respectful use of "Xmas" in the past, states that the spelling should
never be used in formal writing.
Use in English
"Xmas" used on a
Christmas postcard, 1910
Early use of "Xmas" includes Bernard Ward's History of St. Edmund's
college, Old Hall (originally published circa 1755). An earlier
version, "X'temmas", dates to 1551. Around 1100 the term was
written as "Xp̄es mæsse" in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. "Xmas" is
found in a letter from George Woodward in 1753.
Lord Byron used
the term in 1811, as did
Samuel Coleridge (1801) and Lewis
Carroll (1864). In the United States, the fifth American edition
of William Perry's Royal Standard English Dictionary, published in
Boston in 1800, included in its list of "Explanations of Common
Abbreviations, or Contraction of Words" the entry: "Xmas.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. used the term in a letter
dated 1923. Since at least the late 19th century, "Xmas" has been
in use in various other English-language nations. Quotations with the
word can be found in texts first written in Canada, and the word
has been used in Australia, and in the Caribbean.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage stated that modern use
of the term is largely limited to advertisements, headlines and
banners, where its conciseness is valued. The association with
commerce "has done nothing for its reputation", according to the
In the United Kingdom, the former
Church of England
Church of England Bishop of
Blackburn, Alan Chesters, recommended to his clergy that they avoid
the spelling. In the United States, in 1977 New Hampshire Governor
Meldrim Thomson sent out a press release saying that he wanted
journalists to keep the "Christ" in Christmas, and not call it
Xmas—which he called a "pagan" spelling of Christmas.
Use of "X" for "Christ"
For the article about the χρ symbol, see Chi Rho.
The labarum, often called the Chi-Rho, is a
The abbreviation of
Christmas as "Xmas" is the source of disagreement
among Christians who observe the holiday.
The December 1957 News and Views published by the Church League of
America, a conservative organization co-founded in 1937 by George
Washington Robnett, attacked the use of
Xmas in an article titled
"X=The Unknown Quantity". The claims were picked up later by Gerald L.
K. Smith, who in December 1966 claimed that
Xmas was a "blasphemous
omission of the name of Christ" and that "'X' is referred to as being
symbolical of the unknown quantity." Smith further argued that Jews
Santa Claus to suppress the
New Testament accounts of
Jesus, and that the United Nations, at the behest of "world Jewry",
had "outlawed the name of Christ". There is, however, a well
documented history of use of Χ (actually a chi) as an abbreviation
for "Christ" (Χριστός) and possibly also a symbol of the
cross. The abbreviation appears on many Orthodox Christian
Dennis Bratcher, writing for a website for Christians, states "there
are always those who loudly decry the use of the abbreviation 'Xmas'
as some kind of blasphemy against
Christ and Christianity". Among
them are evangelist
Franklin Graham and
CNN journalist Roland S.
Martin. Graham stated in an interview:
"for us as Christians, this is one of the most holy of the holidays,
the birth of our savior
Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ
out of Christmas. They're happy to say merry Xmas. Let's just take
Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus
Roland Martin likewise relates the use of "Xmas" to his growing
concerns of increasing commercialization and secularization of one of
Christianity's highest holy days. Bratcher posits that those who
dislike abbreviating the word are unfamiliar with a long history of
Christians using X in place of "Christ" for various purposes.
The word "Christ" and its compounds, including "Christmas", have been
abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before
the modern "Xmas" was commonly used. "Christ" was often written as
"Xρ" or "Xt"; there are references in the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as
far back as 1021. This X and P arose as the uppercase forms of the
Greek letters χ (Ch) and ρ (R) used in ancient abbreviations for
Χριστος (Greek for "Christ"). The labarum, an amalgamation
of the two Greek letters rendered as ☧,[note 1] is a symbol often
used to represent
Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and the OED Supplement have cited
usages of "X-" or "Xp-" for "Christ-" as early as 1485. The terms
"Xtian" and less commonly "Xpian" have also been used for "Christian".
The OED further cites usage of "Xtianity" for "Christianity" from
1634. According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage,
most of the evidence for these words comes from "educated Englishmen
who knew their Greek".
Christian art, χ and χρ are abbreviations for Christ's
name. In many manuscripts of the
New Testament and icons, Χ is an
abbreviation for Χριστος, as is XC (the first and last
letters in Greek, using the lunate sigma); compare IC for
Other uses of "X(t)" for "Chris(t)-"
Other proper names containing the name "Christ" besides those
mentioned above are sometimes abbreviated similarly, either as "X" or
"Xt", both of which have been used historically, e.g., "Xtopher"
or "Xopher" for "Christopher", or "Xtina" or "Xina" for the name
In the 17th and 18th centuries, "Xene" and "Exene" were common
spellings for the given name Christine. The American singer Christina
Aguilera has sometimes gone by the name "Xtina". Similarly, Exene
Cervenka has been a noted American singer-songwriter since 1977.
This usage of "X" to spell the syllable "kris" (rather than the sounds
"ks") has extended to "xtal" for "crystal", and on florists' signs to
"xant" for "chrysanthemum", even though these words are not
etymologically related to "Christ": "crystal" comes from a Greek word
meaning "ice" (and not even using the letter χ), and "chrysanthemum"
comes from Greek words meaning "golden flower", while "Christ" comes
from a Greek word meaning "anointed".
In popular culture
In the animated television series Futurama, which is set in the 31st
Xmas /ˈɛksməs/ is the official name for the day formerly
Christmas (which, in the episode "
Xmas Story", is said to
have become an "archaic pronunciation").
In the American version of the board game Monopoly, players can draw a
card from the Community Chest which reads: "
Xmas fund matures. Collect
Names and titles of Jesus
Christo (Bulgarian: Христо), Exene Cervenka
Christina Aguilera for other uses of an X prefix abbreviation.
Chi Rho (U+2627)
^ a b c d "X n. 10.". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University
Press. 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Liturgy of the Mass. Retrieved 20 December
^ O'Conner, Patricia T.; Kellerman, Stewart (2009). Origins of the
Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language. New York:
Random House. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-4000-6660-5.
^ Siegel, Allan M. and William G. Connolly, The
New York Times
New York Times Manual
of Style and Usage, Three Rivers Press, 1999,
ISBN 978-0-8129-6389-2, pp 66, 365, retrieved via Google Books,
December 27, 2008
^ a b c Griffiths, Emma, "Why get cross about Xmas?",
December 22, 2004. Retrieved December 28, 2008.
^ Fenwick, Millicent, Vogue's Book of Etiquette: A Complete Guide to
Traditional Forms and Modern Usage, Simon and Schuster, 1948, p 611,
retrieved via Google Books, December 27, 2008; full quote seen on
Google Books search page
^ a b Peters, Pam, "Xmas" article, The Cambridge Guide to Australian
English Usage, Cambridge University Press, 2007,
ISBN 978-0-521-87821-0, p 872, retrieved via Google Books,
December 27, 2008
^ Hudson, Robert, "Xmas" article, The
Christian Writer's Manual of
Style: Updated and Expanded Edition, Zondervan, 2004,
ISBN 978-0-310-48771-5 p 412, retrieved via Google Books,
December 27, 2008
^ a b "Xmas, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
^ Mullan, John and Christopher Reid, Eighteenth-century Popular
Culture: A Selection, Oxford University Press, 2000,
ISBN 978-0-19-871134-6, p 216, retrieved via Google Books,
December 27, 2008
^ a b c d e "Xmas" article, Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English
Usage, Merriam-Webster, 1994, p 968, ISBN 978-0-87779-132-4,
retrieved via Google Books, December 27, 2008
^ Perry, William (1800). The Royal Standard English Dictionary.
Boston: Isaiah Thomas & Ebenezer T. Andrews. p. 56.
^ Kelcey, Barbara Eileen, Alone in Silence: European Women in the
Canadian North Before 1940, McGill-Queen's Press, 2001,
ISBN 978-0-7735-2292-3 ("We had singing practice with the white
men for the
Xmas carols", written by Sadie Stringer in Peel River,
Northwest Territories, Canada), p 50, retrieved via Google Books,
December 27, 2008
^ Alssopp, Richard, "most1" articleDictionary of Caribbean English
Usage, University of the West Indies Press, 2003,
ISBN 978-976-640-145-0 ("The most day I enjoy was Xmas
day" — Bdos, 1985), p 388, retrieved via Google Books, December
^ "X-mas is 'X'ing out Christ'", The Montreal Gazette, December 8,
1977, accessed February 10, 2010
^ "Subject Guide to Conservative and Libertarian Materials, in
Manuscript Collections". University of Oregon.
^ Kominsky, Morris (1970). The Hoaxers: Plain Liars, Fancy Liars and
Damned Liars. pp. 137–138. ISBN 0-8283-1288-5. [full
Christian Symbols and Their Descriptions". Ancient-symbols.com.
Retrieved 8 December 2008. [unreliable source?]
^ "Why Is There a Controversy Surrounding the Word 'Xmas'?".
tlc.howstuffworks.com. Retrieved 25 December 2012. [unreliable
^ "The Origin of "Xmas"". CRI/Voice. 2007-12-03. Retrieved
^ American Morning: A Conversation With Reverend Franklin Graham, CNN
(December 16, 2005). Retrieved on December 29, 2009.
^ Martin, Roland (December 20, 2007). Commentary: You can't take
Christ out of Christmas, CNN. Retrieved on December 29, 2009.
Christian Symbols: Chi-
Christian Symbols, Doug Gray, Retrieved
^ "Monogram of Christ". New Advent. 1911-10-01. Retrieved
^ Rev. Steve Fritz (December 22, 2012). "The 'X' Factor". Lancaster
Online. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
^ Church Symbolism: An Explanation of the more Important Symbols of
the Old and New Testament, the Primitive, the Mediaeval and the Modern
Church by Frederick Roth Webber (2nd. edition, 1938). OCLC 236708
^ http://www.all-acronyms.com/XT./Christ/1136835 "Abbreviation: Xt."
Date retrieved: 19 Dec. 2010.
^ "X". Everything 2. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Xmas.
Xmas in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
An icon of
Christ featuring the abbreviations IC and XC in the upper
"Why get cross about Xmas?" (BBC, December 22, 2004)
Saint Nicholas Day
St. Stephen's Day
Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Shepherds
Annunciation to the shepherds
Baptism of the Lord
Herod the Great
Massacre of the Innocents
flight into Egypt
Nativity of Jesus
in later culture
Star of Bethlehem
Old Man Winter
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Tió de Nadal
Christmas gift-bringers by country
Boar's Head Feast
Carols by Candlelight
Cavalcade of Magi
Events and celebrations
Feast of the Seven Fishes
Google Santa Tracker
Lord of Misrule
Meals and feasts
Nine Lessons and Carols
NORAD Tracks Santa
Australia and New Zealand
Hit singles UK
Hit singles US
Carols for Choirs
The Oxford Book of Carols
The New Oxford Book of Carols
"Old Santeclaus with Much Delight"
"A Visit from St. Nicholas"
Black Friday (partying)
Black Friday (shopping)
Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004
Puritan New England
American Civil War
Post-War United States
Running of the Santas
Santa's Candy Castle
Small Business Saturday
WWE Tribute to the Troops
bûche de Noël
Rosca de reyes