If you are a Gossip Girl fan then you would remember her favourite sign off was XOXO. Oh, we all know that it means ‘hugs and kisses’. But have you ever wondered where it came from? Out of 26 alphabets, why only letters ‘X’ and ‘O’? And also, which letter signifies hugs and which one signifies kisses? Lets decode!

The Optimist

Back in the Middle Age, many people couldn’t read and write, so they used X as signature, which stood for ‘In Christ’s name, it’s true / I assert’. The reason behind this is that the letter X is regarded as a holy symbol by the Christians as it resembles the Calvary cross on which Jesus was crucified. Also, the Greek word for Christ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Xristos) starts with the same letter.

Cathedral for Saint Mathew

The signee would then kiss the ‘X’ to demonstrate his sincerity and that what was written in the document was true—in much the same way that Christians kissed the Bible to display their belief in Christ. So, that’s it! This also explains why Christmas is abbreviated to Xmas.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first time X came to mean ‘kisses’ was in a letter by a priest, Gilbert White in 1763:

Madame, … In the whole it is best that I have been the loser [of a friendly bet], as it would not be safe in all appearances to receive even so much as a pin from your Hands.

However, some people believe that he actually meant ‘blessings’ and not ‘kisses’. Then there was also the time when Winston Churchill signed a letter with three kisses: 

Please excuse bad writing as I am in an awful hurry. (Many kisses.) xxx WSC.

Another speculation about X representing a kiss is that the letter X looks like two people kissing or maybe, it simply looks like puckered up lips.

Say Why Do I?

So, now we know why X stands for a kiss. But why an O for a hug? 

It is not clear as to why an ‘O’ is used for a hug. One explanation for it is that Jewish immigrants signed their documents with an ‘O’ upon arriving in the United States. They refused to sign with an X as it invoked Christ. Perhaps, ‘O’ was not chosen because of this reason. 


Another one is that by looking down on the O from above, it resembles two people embracing. However, this is just pure speculation.



XOXO perhaps has some connection with the game tic-tac-toe which provided the required inspiration for it. 

But if X=kisses and O=hugs, why do we describe XOXO as hugs and kisses and not kisses and hugs? The debate is on.

Masthead Image Source: Pitu Pitu