How to Pronounce the Letter "X" in Spanish

Quick Answer

The letter xhas two basic pronunciations in Spanish:

  • At the end of a word or inside the word, the x is a combination of kplus s, for example: exposición(exhibition) or relax(relaxation).
  • At the beginning of a word, it sounds like an s, for example: xenofobia(xenophobia).

The Sound of the Letter “X”

“X” Is a Consonant

When a consonant sound is uttered, the flow of air out of the mouth is partially or completely blocked at some point.

Depending on its position, the Spanish letter x represents these two consonant sounds:

  • Sound 1 When the x is placed inside or at the end of a word, it’s uttered as the sequence of the Spanish consonant sounds, or phonemes, /k/ and /s/. You can hear this in the words axila(armpit), sexto(sixth), or clímax(climax). However, when x is inside a word and at the end of a syllable, some native speakers—particularly in Spain—tend to drop the first part of that sequence in everyday speech. In that case, the x sounds like a simple s and mixto(mixed) may be pronounced /místo/.

  • Sound 2 When the x is placed at the beginning of a word, it’s pronounced as the Spanish consonant sound, or phoneme, /s/, for example in xilófono(xylophone).

The name of this letter is pronounced equis.

Is the Spanish "X" Similar to the English "X"?

The sound 1 explained above is like the English x in words such as expel or latex. Compare the sound of x in those English words and their Spanish translations, expulsarand látex.

However, sound 2 is quite different from the way an initial x is pronounced in English. Compare, for example, how the x is pronounced in xilografíaand its English translation xylography, or xenónand xenon.

How Do I Read the “X” in “México”?

In the past, the Spanish letter x sometimes represented the Spanish consonant sound, or phoneme, /x/, which is more or less equivalent to the English sound of h in ham or hello. For this reason, the x in words like xicoor Texasis pronounced more like the h in hello.

There aren’t many words like these in Spanish, and they’re mostly names like the ones already mentioned or their derivatives mexicano(Mexican) or texano(Texan).

Examples

Let’s look at some examples of words containing the letter x in different word positions and letter combinations.

SpanishEnglishPosition-Combination
Xavier
Xavierbeginning of word + vowel
xenófobo
xenophobicbeginning of word + vowel
xilofonista
xylophone playerbeginning of word + vowel
auxilio
assistanceinside word + between vowels
examen
examinside word + between vowels
oxígeno
oxygeninside word + between vowels
excelente
excellentinside word + end of syllable
texto
textinside word + end of syllable
yuxtaposición
juxtapositioninside word + end of syllable
cóccix
coccyxend of word
siux
Siouxend of word
tórax
thoraxend of word

One Letter, One Sound

The pronunciation of the letter x does not vary much throughout the Spanish-speaking world, so there shouldn’t be much difference between the way ex(ex) sounds in Lima, Santiago de Cuba, or Maracaibo.

Want to learn more about Spanish pronunciation? Check out the following articles!

The Sounds of Spanish

SPA, IPA, and ABC Pronunciation

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Spanish Alphabet Pronunciation

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