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Five X-rated adjectives

John Murray

When you first learn the alphabet and you start to look at illustrated books to do with it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that xylophones and x-rays are everyday household items. With so few English words beginning with X, it’s hard for publishers to find something visual enough for kids to connect with the  letter.

Most X words are of Greek origin, with prefixes like ‘xylo-‘ (wood), ‘xero-‘ (dry) and ‘xeno-‘ (foreign) well represented in the dictionary. If you get bored of xylophones and x-rays and want to ‘x-press’ yourself in another way, here are five adjectives you could use:

1. Xenophobic

Probably the most common X adjective, a xenophobic person is somebody who fears or dislikes foreigners, or any culture outside of their own.

Many newspapers could be accused of showing xenophobic attitudes in some of the content they print about such subjects as Europe and immigration.

2. Xerophilous

The prefix tells us that this word has something to do with dryness, and the best example of something xerophilous is a cactus.

A xerophilous animal or plant is one that’s adapted to dry surroundings. If you wanted to be creative, you could say somebody had a xerophilous sense of humour.

3. Xanthic

You’ve probably seen ‘xanthic gum’ listed among the ingredients of something questionable that you’ve eaten at some time. Xanthic is simply a scientific word for the colour yellow, and is often used to describe flowers.

4. Xiphoidal

For boys especially, no trip to the woods is complete without picking up a big stick for no real reason at all. They might well look for one that’s particularly xiphoidal, or shaped like a sword.

5. Xenocratic

This one is capitalised, because it relates to the Greek philosopher Xenocrates of Chalcedon.

Following Plato, Xenocrates is known for his musings on three cognitive states. Xenocratic ideas feature regularly on philosophy courses today.

So, there’s something to think about for illustrators of children’s alphabet books; while helping youngsters learn the ABC, why not give them a dose of Greek philosophy and botanical terminology at the same time?

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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