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. Adjectives that start with "x" do exist, though. For the most part, they fall into one of four categories (xanth, xen, xer, or xyl) based on their Greek roots.
"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 start with "xen," but they actually mean the opposite of foreign.
- xenial - a friendly relationship between host and guest
- xenodochial - friendly to strangers
"Xer" means "dry." Adjectives based on the root "xer" refer to dryness in some way. 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. So, xerography translates to "dry writing," making photocopying a dry process. Pretty cool, right?
- xeric - adapted to a dry environment
- xerographic - pertaining to xerography (photocopying)
- 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 (noun), 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
While most adjectives start with xanth, xen, xer, or xyl, there are a few that do not.
- x-acto - extremely sharp hand-held cutting tool (knife) with a replaceable blade; used for scrapbooking and other types of craft projects
- xiphophyllous - botanical term for a plant with leaves shaped like a sword
Knowing these adjectives exist is beneficial, but it still may be challenging to come up with ideas on how to work them into your writing or spoken communication. Reviewing some example sentences can be a great source of inspiration.
- Be careful not to order xeric houseplants such as cacti.
- Having a xenial nature is essential to a successful career as a hotel concierge.
- My dog has such a xenodochial nature that I’m afraid she might wander off with a stranger from the dog park.
- When I worked on my college newspaper, we used an x-acto knife to cut strips of typeset copy into columns for placement in the layout.
- It wouldn’t be wise to hire someone with xeonophobic tendencies to work in human resources for a global company.
- Strawberry blonde hair is more red than blonde, but with a xanthous tone.
- Be sure to mention your xerographic skills when applying to work for a printing company.
- Termites are xylotomous insects that can quickly destroy wooden structures.
- The band is looking for a new member who can play a xylophonic synthesizer.
- I would like to add a xiphophyllous plant to my collection.
These adjectives may not be common or even very useful in most everyday writing or conversation, but the next time someone asks you for a descriptive word that starts with "x," you'll be well positioned to shock and awe those around you. To further expand your vocabulary of interesting adjectives, turn your attention to learning some adjectives that start with "y."