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 belief 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 16th
* 1 Style guides and etiquette
* 2 History
* 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
* 5 Notes
* 6 References
* 7 External links
STYLE GUIDES AND ETIQUETTE
"Xmas" is deprecated by some modern style guides , including those at
New York Times
New York Times ,
The Times ,
The Guardian , and the
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
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. Christmas."
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
Christian symbol representing Christ
The abbreviation of
Christmas as "Xmas" is the source of disagreement
among Christians who observe the holiday. 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
Christ and Christianity". Among them are evangelist Franklin
Roland S. Martin . Graham stated in an
"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
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 ☧, is a symbol often used to
Christ in Catholic ,
Protestant , and Orthodox Christian
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
Jesus in Greek.
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 board game Monopoly , players can draw a card from the
Community Chest which reads: "
Xmas fund matures. Collect $100".
* Names and titles of
Robert Christgau ,
Christo (Bulgarian : Христо), Exene
Christina Aguilera for other uses of an X prefix
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
* ^ 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
Manual of Style and Usage, Three Rivers Press, 1999, ISBN
978-0-8129-6389-2 , pp 66, 365, retrieved via Google Books, December
* ^ A B C Griffiths, Emma, "Why get cross about Xmas?", BBC
website, 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,
* ^ 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,
* ^ 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,
* ^ 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 27, 2008
* ^ "X-mas is \'X\'ing out Christ\'", The Montreal Gazette,
December 8, 1977, accessed February 10, 2010
* ^ "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