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X

X

Rock band

For the Record

From Poetry to Plainsong

Critical Raves

Attacked Radio Cowardice

Selected discography

Sources

One of the most highly regarded groups to emerge from the Los Angeles punk rock scene, X brought a commitment and maturity of vision to a genre best known for its expressions of rage. Fronted by vocalist Exene Cervenka and bassist-vocalist John Doe, both of whom wrote the bands material, X stunned critics and fans alike with their debut album, Los Angeles, in 1980. After struggling to carry their music beyond a cult audience for the better part of a decade, the group finally disbanded, pursued solo projects, and thenafter the multi-platinum success of such alternative rock bands as Nirvanareunited for a new album and tour in the early 1990s.

John Doe was born in Illinois to a family that moved frequently; they finally settled in Baltimore, where Doe spent his teenage years in local rock bands. Tiring of the citys limited music scene, he moved to Los Angeles in 1976. The following year he was united with guitarist Billy Zoom through an ad in the venerable free-ad newspaper The Recycler. Zooms roots were in rockabilly, and he played tasty, economical leads that

For the Record

Members include Dave Alvin (bandmember 1985-87), guitar; Mick Basher (bandmember 1977), drums; D. J. Bonebrake (born December 8, 1955, in Burbank, CA; married; joined group 1978), drums; Exene Cerwnka (born Christine Cervenka, February 1, 1956, in Chicago), vocals; John Doe (born February 25, 1954, in Decatur, IL; son of librarians), bass, vocals; Tony Gilkyson (joined group 1986), guitar; Billy Zoom (born February 20, c. 1949, in Illinois; bandmember 1977-85), guitar. Cervenka and Doe were married. Both have remarried and had children.

Group formed in Los Angeles, 1977; released debut single, Adult Books/Were Desperate, Dangerhouse Records, 1978; signed with Slash Records and released debut album, Los Angeles, 1980; signed with Elektra Records and released Under the Big Black Sun, 1982; signed with Big Life/Mercury Records and released Hey Zeus!, 1993. Appeared in films The Decline of Western Civilization, 1980, Urgh! A Music War, 1981, and The Unheard Music, 1985.

Cervenka is the author (with Lydia Lunch) of poetry collection Adulterers Anonymous, Grove Press, 1982; Doe and Cervenka released sob records, contributed to film soundtracks, and pursued film roles, among other projects, 1989-92; Bonebrake worked as session player and sideman, late 1980s-1992; Gilkyson played on Cervenka and Alvin solo albums.

Awards: Wild Gift named album of the year by Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Time, among others, 1981; named band of the year in L.A. Weekly readers poll, 1987.

Addresses: Record company Mercury Records, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10019; 11150 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.

fit the emerging punk aesthetic of the period. John and I had two totally different approaches, Zoom explained to Rolling Stones David Chute. We influenced each other and turned it into one thing. But we really didnt have a sound until John met Exene in Venice [California].

From Poetry to Plainsong

That meeting took place at a poetry workshop. Immediately impressed by the Chicago-born Cervenkas writing, Doe asked her out; the two began a romance that

would last the better part of a decade and ultimately lead to marriage but would not outlast their artistic collaboration. Cervenkawho used Exene as an Xmas-type abbreviation of her given name, Christinereworked one of her poems as a song lyric and auditioned for Doe and Zooms new band. At the beginning, I wanted to do gospel vocals, all up and down with every word somehow bent, she noted to Chute. But it seemed that a sort of flat delivery, more like country singing, worked better. While some listeners would consider sort of flat an understatement of Cervenkas unusual, sometimes grating vocalsespecially when compared to Does supple and rich countrified tonesthe twos unique harmonies helped to define the groups sound. Newsweek later called Cervenkas approach a keening kind of punk plain-song; Doe told the magazine he considered it good and natural.

Drummer Mick Basher initially rounded out the foursome, but Doe and Cervenka were so impressed with D. J. Bonebrakes work with the punk group the Eyeswhose performance they caught at the legendary underground club The Masquethat they persuaded him to leave his group and replace Basher. Bonebrake, the groups only native Angeleno, debuted with X in February of 1978.

Over the next two years, X built a powerful reputation on the local rock scene through relentless gigging. Soon they were, in the words of Rolling Stone reporter Chris Morris, the citys most respected and written-about punk band. Their 1978 single Adult BooksTWere Desperate helped fuel their underground success. The groups sound was nonetheless too radical for the major record labels, which gravitated toward safer-sounding New Wave bands. X cast their lot with the fledgling company Slash, a tiny operation run by friends. They achieved a major coup, however, by enticing Ray Manzarek, keyboardist of the legendary L.A. band the Doors, to produce their debut album. Recorded for a mere $10,000 and titled Los Angeles, it would make X a musical act of national importance.

Critical Raves

Rolling Stones Ken Tucker called Los Angeles a powerful, unsettling work, claiming, X have already perfected a style that achieves jolting effects through enormously compressed, elliptical imagery held together by succinct, brutally played guitar and drum riffs. Featuring such blistering original tunes as Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, Sex and Dying and High Society, and the shattering title song, along with a souped-up cover version of the Doors classic Soul Kitchen, Los Angeles became one of the most critically celebrated records of the year. The groups sound during that period was captured live in Penelope Spheeriss film The Decline of Western Civilization.

In 1981 X aced the sophomore jinx by releasing the compelling Wild Gift, which further refined the formula of their debut. The blazing Were Desperate became something of a punk anthem, declaring, Were desperate/Get used to it. The group also explored more diverse musical territory, even offering a touch of retro-balladry on the anguished Adult Books. Wild Gift made the Top Ten lists of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, and Time magazine, among others. Xs increased popularity enabled them to leave Slash and sign with a major label, Elektra; the move angered friends at Slash and led some of the bands industry-distrusting hardcore fans to accuse them of selling out. Undaunted, the group released Under the Big Black Sun in 1982; Parke Puterbaugh declared in his Rolling Stone review, America needs to hear this album. He added that the group evince a surefootedness, a throttling punch, thats deliriously subversive. In addition to rockers like The Hungry Wolf, the album contained two songs commemorating the death of Cervenkas sister: Riding With Mary and Come Back to Me.

Attacked Radio Cowardice

X released its second Elektra album, More Fun in the New World, the next year; full of political fury aimed in large part at the values of President Ronald Reagans administration, it also represented a further development of Xs sound. Cervenkas lyrics for I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts targeted radio cowardice, an issue first explored on The Unheard Music, from Los Angeles. This time out she decried the predominance of modish British popglitter disco synthesizer night schooland asked, Will the last American band to get played on the radio/Please bring the flag? More Fun sold fairly well, though Xs predictions about adventurous domestic musics fate on radio would hold true for the rest of the decade. Indeed, Creem writer Richard Riegel proclaimed somewhat prophetically in 1984, We cant have a whole generation grow up who dont realize until 1991 or so that they wish theyd gotten into X way back when.

In 1984 the group released the single Wild Thing, a manic cover version of the rock classic by the Troggs. Doe and Cervenka recorded a punk/folk/country album for Slash as the Knitters; it was released in 1985, as were The Unheard Music, a documentary film about X that was some five years in the making, and the X album Aint Love Grand. The latter contained the single Burning House of Love.

Billy Zoom left X after the release of Aint Love Grand, and by the end of 1985 Doe and Cervenka had divorced. They decided to keep working together, however, and in 1986 were joined by guitarists Dave Alvin, known for his work with the Blasters, and ex-Lone Justice member Tony Gilkyson. In addition to their work with the Knitters and other L.A. groups, Doe and Cervenka pursued a variety of projects; Doe began fairly steady work as a film actor, while Cervenka, who had co-written a 1982 book of poetry with Lydia Lunch, became increasingly involved in political activism and toured as a spoken-word performer. She also did some film and television acting. Bonebrake became a popular sideman for local performers.

X released the album See How We Are in 1987; it fared poorly both with critics and consumers, despite the inclusion of Dave Alvins lyrical rocker 4th of July, which seemed destined for radio success. Alvin left the group soon after the albums release. X was named band of the year by readers of L.A. Weekly, but its members felt little momentum. They put out a double live album in 1988 and then lapsed into retirement.

Cervenka unveiled two solo albums, one in 1989 and another in 1990. Doe released a solo venture as well in 1990 and continued to act in films, including Roadside Prophets and Pure Country. X seemed a thing of the past. Then, in 1991, the commercial equivalent of a tornado hit the music industry. Its name was Nirvana, a punk-derived grunge trio from Washington that achieved mega-platinum success with Nevermind, an album of well-crafted but sonically abrasive songs. Suddenly, major labels, Top 40 radio stations, and MTV were very interested in alternative rock and the success of other bands who had felt the influence of groups like X, including Janes Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Faith No More. This musical climate convinced Doe, Cervenka, and company to reunite. Radio has changed, Cervenka reflected in 1993 to Gary Davis of the Los Angeles Reader.

X signed with Big House, a British-based subsidiary of Mercury Records. Joining first with an English producer, the group ended up recording with Tony Berg, a music-industry veteran who would soon be an Artists & Repertoire executive for the Geffen record company. Working at Bergs house, X recorded tracks that would become their 1993 release, Hey Zeus! While in their earlier days Doe and Cervenka had largely collaborated on songs, this time they wrote independently for the most part, offering a kind of song-by-song counterpoint. Doe penned the albums first two singles, Country at War and New Life. As he told the L.A. Village View, Whats different with X these days is that we have an incredible musical history, musical vocabulary, with each other. He added, The bands friendship stayed intact, so it was a fairly smooth transition coming back together. Both he and Cervenka had had children with other spouses, though any mellowing was not apparent on Hey Zeus!

Rolling Stone, in a generally positive review, noted that the group seems to have come to terms with their postpunk identity. Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times, who insisted that X still has much to tell us, reported, Xs music remains honest, liberating and welcome, though he did feel the record had its shortcomings. Spin, meanwhile, panned Hey Zeus! as little more than a commodity, qualifying this critique only by concluding, When asked Hows the new X album?, the correct response is, Not as bad as it couldve been. The band, however, seemed prepared to accept relatively poorer reviews and higher visibility, a marked contrast to its earliest reception. After a tour of southern California area codes, X planned a series of national shows. When Davis of the Los Angeles Reader asked John Doe how it felt to be a survivor of punk, the bassist replied with characteristic wit, Its fabulous! Its just like being a non-survivor, except that youre still alive.

Selected discography

Adult Books/Were Desperate, Dangerhouse, 1978.

Los Angeles (includes Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, Sex and Dying and High Society, Los Angeles, Soul Kitchen, and The Unheard Music), Slash, 1980.

(Contributors) Beyond and Back, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, and Were Desperate, Decline of Western Civilization (soundtrack), Slash, 1980.

Wild Gift (includes Were Desperate and Adult Books), Slash, 1981.

(Contributors) UrghlAMusic War (soundtrack), 1981.

On Elektra

Under the Big Black Sun (includes The Hungry Wolf, Riding With Mary, and Come Back to Me), 1982.

More Fun in the New World (includes I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts), 1983.

Wild Thing, 1984.

Aint Love Grand (includes Burning House of Love), 1985.

See How We Are (includes Fourth of July), 1987.

X Live at the Whisky-a-Go-Go on the Fabulous Sunset Strip, 1988.

On Big Life/Mercury

Hey Zeus! (includes Country at War and New Life), 1993.

The Knitters

Poor Little Critter on the Road, Slash, 1985.

Solo recordings by Exene Cervenka

Old Wives Tales, Rhino, 1989.

Running Sacred, RNA, 1990.

(Contributor) Clean Like Tomorrow, Roadside Prophets (soundtrack), Fine Line/Vanguard, 1992.

(Contributor) Tahachapi (soundtrack), Hemdale, 1993.

Solo recordings by John Doe

Meet John Doe, Geffen, 1990.

(Contributor) Beer, Gas, Ride Forever, Roadside Prophets (soundtrack), 1992.

(Contributor) I Will Always Love You, The Bodyguard (soundtrack), Warner Bros., 1992.

Sources

Books

Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul, St. Martins, 1989.

Periodicals

BAM, September 10, 1993.

Billboard, June 5, 1993.

Creem, February 1984.

Factor X, July 1993.

LA. Village View, September 10, 1993.

Los Angeles Reader, September 3, 1993.

Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1993.

Mademoiselle, January 1983.

Melody Maker, March 17, 1984.

Newsweek, April 19, 1982.

Ray Gun, August 1993.

Rolling Stone, July 10, 1980; August 7, 1980; October 15, 1981; August 19, 1982; September 30, 1982; June 24, 1993; September 2, 1993.

Spin, July 1993.

Venice, July 1993.

Additional information for this profile was provided by Mercury Records publicity materials, 1993.

Simon Glickman

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X

X, x [Called ‘eks’]. The 24th LETTER of the Roman ALPHABET as used for English. It was adapted from the Greek letter chi/khi (X) by the Romans, with the value /ks/.

Sound value

Phonetically, x as used in English is redundant, its standard value /ks/ being equally represented by cc in vaccine, ks in treks, cs in tocsin, and cks in socks, allowing such homophones as lax/lacks and cox/cocks. However, x is not always pronounced as ks, different environments inducing the alternatives /gz/ in example and /z/ in xenophobia.

Initial X and EX-

(1) No vernacular English word begins with the sound /ks/, and the pronunciation is /z/ for initial x is such GREEK-derived bases as xantho- yellow, xeno- foreign, xero- dry, xylo- wood, and such names as Xanthippe and Xerxes. (2) Older SPANISH x as in Mexico, Texas is kept, with English pronunciation as ks, although in Spain these are today written Méjico, Tejas, and pronounced with a velar fricative /x/, as in ScoE loch. (3) When initial x stands for the letter x (Xmas, X-ray), it is pronounced ‘eks’. (4) X in the LATIN prefix ex- may be pronounced voiceless as /ks/ (typically when stressed, as in export, extra) or voiced as /gz/ (typically before a stressed vowel, as in exact, exist). In practice, however, voicing is often inconsistent, both realizations being heard in exit. The c in initial exc- (excel, excite) is assimilated into the voiceless value of x, while following h is usually assimilated into the voiced realization (exhaust, exhibit, but voicelessly in exhibition). A following root beginning with s loses the s (ex + sert becomes exert) and the x is voiced.

Medial X

(1) In medial position, x is typically voiceless (maxim, vexatious, elixir, toxin, approximate, buxom, axle, sexton), but when an i-glide follows (whether represented by i with a following vowel, or by u with the value in music), the glide may be assimilated and x sounded as ksh (noxious, luxury, sexual), a palatalizing effect paralleled in other spelling patterns such as fractious, actual. (2) Voicing of this sound may occur medially before a stressed syllable, ‘gzh’ rather than ‘ksh’ being often heard in luxurious. (3) Anxious parallels noxious (though with the preceding n velarized as ‘ng’), but in the noun anxiety the i is not assimilated, the n remains velarized, and x is voiced but loses its /k/, being pronounced /z/. (4) English usually retains x as derived from Latin, as in exit from exitus and crucifixion from crucifixio/crucifixionis, but, since the 17c, connexion, inflexion (the etymologically appropriate spellings) have increasingly been written connection and inflection, probably by analogy with direction. Complexion and fluxion do not have alternative forms.

Final and silent X

(1) Final x is common and except in recent loans has the value /ks/, usually after a short vowel (BrE axe, AmE ax, flax, relax, climax, wax, index, flex, complex, sex, vex, fix, mix, six, executrix, phalanx, jinx, ox, box, fox, pox, flux, crux), but in coax, hoax after a long vowel. Final /ks/ is normally spelt x in English, except when the /s/ is an inflection: contrast tax/tacks. (2) In French loans, final x is typically silent (choux, prix, Montreux) or pronounced /z/ if a plural inflection (tableaux). Sioux is modelled on French with silent x, although Amerindian in origin. (3) Latin morphology sometimes affects final x. When the plural of appendix, index, matrix, vortex follows Latin, x becomes c in appendices, indices, matrices, vortices. However, regular English pluralizing with -es (appendixes, indexes, matrixes) is common, though sometimes implying a distinct sense of the word concerned: for example, appendices in books, appendixes in the body. (4) Similarly, the Latin feminine suffix -trix is occasionally used as a counterpart to masculine -tor rather than the commoner French-derived -tress, as in dominatrix, executrix, victrix, as against actress, benefactress.

Miscellaneous

(1) X sometimes alternates with sk by metathesis: Manx for earlier Mansk; piskey as a variant of pixie; ax as a dialect form of ask. (2) Buxom was formerly bucksome and pox derives from the plural of pock. Comparably, a recent tendency in commercial spelling reduces the morphologically distinct cs, cks to x: fax for facts and facsimile, pix for pictures, sox for socks, trux for trucks. (3) Disyllables ending in x include technical terms from Latin (helix, vortex) and, apparently as a consequence, many commercial and trade names (Kleenex, Tampax, Xerox). See C, K.

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X

X1 / eks/ (also x) • n. (pl. Xs or X's ) 1. the twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet. ∎  denoting the next after W in a set of items, categories, etc. ∎  denoting an unknown or unspecified person or thing: there is nothing in the data to tell us whether X causes Y. ∎  (x) (used in describing play in bridge) denoting an unspecified card other than an honor. ∎  (usu. x) the first unknown quantity in an algebraic expression, usually the independent variable. ∎  (usu. x) denoting the principal or horizontal axis in a system of coordinates: [in comb.] the x-axis. 2. a cross-shaped written symbol, in particular: ∎  used to indicate a position on a map or diagram. ∎  used to indicate a mistake or incorrect answer. ∎  used in a letter or message to symbolize a kiss. ∎  used to indicate one's vote on a paper ballot. ∎  used in place of the signature of a person who cannot write. 3. a shape like that of a letter X: two wires in the form of an X | [in comb.] an X-shaped cross. 4. the Roman numeral for ten. • v. (X’s, X’d, X’ing) [tr.] mark or make a sign with an X. ∎  overwrite or obliterate with an X or series of X’s. ∎  make void or annul; invalidate: we’re all X-ing things out of our curricula. X2 • symb. 1. a rating assigned to movies classified as suitable for adults only. Replaced in 1990 by NC-17. 2. (in systematic names of organisms) hybrid.

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X

X The twenty-fourth letter of the modern English alphabet and the twenty-first of the ancient Roman one, in the latter an adoption of Greek khi.

X is traditionally used to signify an unknown person or thing, or to note the location of a particular place, as in X marks the spot.
X chromosome in humans and other mammals, a sex chromosome, two of which are normally present in female cells (designated XX) and only one in male cells (designated XY).X files a cult American television series (1993– , created by Chris Carter) in which two special agents, Fox Mulder and the more sceptical Dana Scully, repeatedly investigate cases which appear to involve the paranormal; final proof of extra-terrestrial activity, however, is always lacking, although it is indicated that this may be deliberately suppressed by government agency. The slogan of the series, ‘The truth is out there’, has become a catchphrase.

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X

X The letter used by the CCITT to categorize standards relating to data communications over digital circuits; the number following the letter identifies a particular standard. Some of the more important standards in the X-series are listed.

X3 PAD control;

X25 data signaling between the equipment associated with the PTT and the user;

X28 communication between a PAD and an ASCII device;

X29 communication between two PADs;

X75 communication between networks using X25;

X121 standards for addressing in an X25 network;

X400 message handling services: all standards in the range X400 to X499 relate to various aspects of message handling;

X500 directory services: all standards in the range X500 to X599 relate to various aspects of directory services.

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X

X, 24th letter of the alphabet. In English it has no peculiar sound, but stands for the combination ks as in fox, or gz as in exempt, or, initially, for the sound of z as in xenia. In words from Greek, x transliterates the 14th Greek letter, xi, a letter perhaps quite unrelated to the Roman x in form. The formal Greek correspondent of x was chi, hence it is used in phonetics to represent a velar fricative like ch in loch. As the initial of the name Christ, X has become a symbol for it, e.g., in Xmas and in the monogram XP (chi rho). In Roman numerals X stands for 10.

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X

X 24th letter of the English alphabet and a letter included in the alphabets of several w European languages. Its origins are obscure, though some experts have suggest that it developed from a Semitic character called Samekh. A letter resembling modern X existed in the Greek alphabet, in the Greek language, it was called chi.

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X

X.
1. Mnemonic of Christ, the first letter of XPIΣTOΣ. See chrismon.

2. Roman numeral symbol for 10. See team x.

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x

x Genetics, symbol for the basic number of chromosomes in a genome
• (ital.) Maths., symbol for a Cartesian coordinate (usually horizontal, as in x-axis)
• Bridge, symbol for any card other than an honour
• symbol for cross (as in x-cut, x'd out)
• Commerce, Finance, etc. ex
• extra
• Meteorol., symbol for hoar-frost
• (ital.) Chem., symbol for mole fraction
• (ital.) Maths., symbol for an algebraic variable

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