The Sound of X (part 2) Posted by on Sep 25, 2007 in Pronunciation

In a previous post, I discussed the sound of the letter ‘X’ in Portuguese. This polyphonic letter can trip up many non-native Portuguese speakers, and there are no hard and fast rules regarding its pronunciation.

In this post I’d like to show some more common uses of the letter X as well as some words that include the letter that you might see frequently.

The first example always makes me smile. In Brazil it is very common to see a X-Burguer on the menu of a restaurant or bar. When I first saw this I imagined that the particular establishment I was in was featuring some sort of ‘extreme’ sandwich, perhaps with some daredevilish combination of pimenta and mayo! Alas it turns out the the X-Burguer, unlike the X-Games and the X-Prize, is quite tame; the X is short for ‘cheese!’ The letter X in Portuguese is pronounced by itself as ‘shis,’ and so ‘X-Burguer’ literally is pronounced something like ‘cheeseburger‘ in English!

Here are some words that start with X that are pretty common.

  • (Sho) Shoo. Quite common are t-shirts with the phrase ‘Xô Stress!’ that Brazilians buy on vacation
  • Xerox (Share-ocks) Generic word for paper copier, or for a copy store, particularly at a university
  • Xangô (Shango) Afro-Brazilian deity
  • Xixi (shee-shee) ‘wee-wee’ dimunitive for bodily function numero 1


Finally, allow me to through in one more word that I hear a lot, and is just a fantastic word aesthetically, in my opinion: Frouxo which means loose and is pronounced frow-shoo.

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  1. Evan Quinlan:

    Apparently, like English, Portuguese has some tricky polyphonic letters. Though unlike English, Portuguese’s phonetic quirks seem to make the language sound more beautiful rather than just making it more annoying to speak.

    (Not that I don’t love English… you just have to look a little deeper to see its good sides…)