Ask someone to name a word that starts with X, and you’ll likely get “xylophone” or “x-ray.” Not very inspiring, right? What if you asked someone to name an adjective that starts with X? Several blank stares await you.
X adjectives do exist, though. For the most part, they fall into one of four categories based on their Greek roots. So, let’s take a look, using our Greek ancestors to help us make a list.
“Xanth” means “yellow,” so any time you see it in a word, it probably has something to do with the color.
Xanthic - yellow or yellowish; of or having to do with xanthine
Xanthous - yellow in color; relating to people with yellowish, auburn or light brown hair
“Xen” means “foreign,” so the following adjectives all have to do with strange, foreign, unnatural or non-native things.
Xenogenic - originating outside the organism or from a foreign substance introduced into the organism
Xenolithic - of or pertaining to a rock fragment foreign to the igneous rock in which it is embedded
Xenophobic - unreasonably afraid of foreigners or strangers
Xenotropic - replicating or reproducing only in cells other than those of the host species
What would the English language be without a couple quirks? In the examples below, both of the words contain “xen,” but they actually mean the opposite or foreign. Take a look:
Xenial - a friendly relationship between host and guest
Xenodochial - friendly to strangers
“Xer” means “dry.” Although dryness isn’t necessarily what you think of when you make copies on a Xerox machine, the origin of the word is the same. In the 1930s, a New York patent attorney wanted to find a way to make copies that didn’t involve chemicals (as was required for photography back then). In the end, photocopying (or xerography) became an electrical process, not a chemical one, sparing the chemical baths needed to develop photographs. So, xerography translates to “dry writing,” making photocopying a dry process. Pretty cool, right? Here are some adjectives based on the root, “xer:”
Xeric - adapted to a dry environment
Xerographic - pertaining to xerography
Xerophilous - capable of thriving in a hot, dry climate, as certain plants and animals
Xerophthalmic - pertaining to abnormal dryness of the eyeball characterized by conjunctivitis, a deficiency of tears
Xerophytic - pertaining to a plant adapted for growth under dry conditions
Xerothermic - pertaining to a hot and dry climatic period, as one of the postglacial periods
Xerotic - dry; affected with or characterized by xerosis
“Xyl” means “wood,” so all of the following adjectives have something to do with wood. Here’s where everyone’s favorite X word, xylophone, comes in.
Xylophones today can be made of metal or fiberglass, as well as wood, but the word itself is derived from the fact that xylophones were originally made out of wooden bars of various lengths.
Check out these "xyl" adjectives:
Xylographic - pertaining to the art of engraving on wood
Xyloid - of or like wood; woody
Xylophagous - eating, boring into, or destroying wood
Xylophonic - pertaining to the sound made by a xylophone
Xylotomous - capable of cutting or boring into wood
Pretty surprising, right? These adjectives may not be common or even very useful in everyday writing or conversation but, the next time someone asks you for an adjective that starts with X, you’ll be well-positioned to shock and awe those around you.
Let’s move on to another interesting letter, Adjectives That Start with Y.