XOXO – Kisses and Hugs


XOXO – You see those letters and automatically know what it means. Kiss, Hug, Kiss, Hug.

But when where these letters first used to express these affections?

The custom of placing X on envelopes, notes, and the bottom of letters to mean kisses dates back to the Middle Ages. Many of the common people were illiterate. Since they were unable to sign their names they put an X in its place.

X first started being used as a substitute for “Christ” by religious scholars about a millennia ago, with the X representing the Greek letter Chi, not the English X.

The Chi Rho, often represented with the letter X, was used as a holy symbol throughout Christian history as it represented the Greek word for Christ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, (which is actually how we ultimately got Xmas as an alternative name for Christmas).

Anyway, back to the symbol for kisses . . .

Once the X was placed on the document, the signer then placed a kiss upon the X, in the same way they kissed the Bible when taking an oath. It was a display of their sworn oath.

With time, the X became the symbol of the kiss.

It is less clear as to why the O represents a hug. One theory refers to when Jewish immigrants were arriving in the United States. Not wanting to use a symbol of a cross, they instead used an O to sign documents.

While this use of O is quite similar to the use of X for signing documents, no one knows how O eventually came to be the written symbol for a hug.

A more simplified theory is that the X looks like two people kissing, and the O looks like two people embracing.

Another theory involves the game of tic-tac-toe.

xoxo tic tac toe Photo credit: delcreations / 123RF Stock Photo

I guess someone thought the X hugs were lonely, and wanted to pair it with something. Since Xs are paired with Os on a tic-tac-to board, why not pair them to represent kisses and another form of affection? Hmmm, what would go with a kiss? A hug of course.
xoxo in red circle Photo credit: embroiderypatterns / 123RF Stock Photo

Although no one can really be 100% sure of these origins, XOXO will forever be recognized as kisses and hugs.

So what are your thoughts on where the use of Xs and Os started? Let us know if you’ve heard of any different theories.

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