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Pronunciation of The Letter X in Portuguese

How Do You Pronounce the Letter X in Portuguese?

The letter X is one of the most challenging sounds in Portuguese because the pronunciation rules are quite variable.
Let’s hear what Sherlock has to say on the topic:

To review, let’s look at the 5 groups of possible pronunciations:

1. “sheesh”

Whenever the letter X appears on its own, as in a hyphenated word, or when you’re discussing the letter itself, the pronunciation will sound like “sheesh“:
o raio xx-ray
Not bad so far, right?

2. “-ks”

This pronunciation sounds exactly like the English pronunciation for X. Unfortunately, there aren’t any clear rules to follow to know when to use this version. So, when you hear this pronunciation, you might want to make an extra effort to commit the individual word to memory.

o maxilarjaw

o táxitaxi


o oxigéniooxygen

(Tip: Words that come from technology or international culture that contain X will usually use this pronunciation, like “fax”… not that anyone sends faxes anymore! 🙈)

3. “sss”

Similar to the previous group, words with this X pronunciation just have to be memorized. For example:


próximoclose (to, by)

4. “zzz”

When “ex” is followed by a vowel, the pronunciation will often sound like “zzz”:

o exameexam


o exemploexample



5. “shh”

X is usually pronounced as “shh” when X appears at the beginning of the word…

o xadrezchess

o xaropesyrup

…when X is preceded by a diphthong…
(Oversimplified, a “ditongo” is when 2 vowels combine to make a single syllable, instead of two separate syllables.):

o peixefish

o caixote de lixogarbage bin

a ameixaplum

deixarto let, to allow, to leave (something)

…and when “ex” is followed by a consonant:




explorarto explore




a excursãoexcursion

When in doubt…

When none of the more specific guidelines in the previous groups apply, and when the x appears between vowels*, it will often fallback to this “shh” sound.:

a taxarate


de luxoluxury


puxarto pull

relaxarto relax

  • Unless the vowel before X is “e”, in which case the rule from Group 4 will likely apply. Que confusão!

We warned you this wouldn’t be easy, but hopefully some of these guidelines and examples will make the struggle 5% easier 🤓


  • I saw this video just yesterday for the first time. The idea of ​​incorporating Sherlock Holmes is excellent and the video is perfect. The narrator in Portuguese is also excellent. The pronunciation is very clear and pleasant to the ear.
    what a pleasure.

  • Well, I am trully impressed!! This example of the difficulty encountered by so many students of the Portuguese language will be eternally graceful. I suggest we also need help with the letter Z. A thousand thanks and I’ll practice the sounds of the letter X from now on.

  • Hello
    I have a couple of questions:

    In 4. “zzz” When “ex” is followed by a vowel, the pronunciation will often sound like “zzz”: for example – o exame, existir – how is the initial e pronounced?

    …and when “ex” is followed by a consonant: for example – extra, extremamente – how is the initial e pronounced?

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    • Olá! There is no fixed way of pronouncing all those Es. “Existir”, by default, is pronounced with a medium E (using this pronunciation guide as reference). The first E of “exame” might be pronounced with a medium E, but also as an I (ee) vowel. “Extra” usually sounds like “uh-ee-shtra”, but the first E of “extremamente” is usually pronounced with a closed E. Portuguese vowels can vary significantly in pronunciation from word to word and there’s usually a lot more memorization than there are rules to guide you 🙂

      • Olá Joseph,
        Unfortunately that was not the reply that I was hoping for, but it does explain why I have been having difficulty with this!
        I see now that I will have to learn pronunciation for each word.
        Many thanks for your help.

        • When “e” is alone as first syllable of word, it’s pronounced as “i” (eel)
          exame – “isame”
          existir – “isishtir”

          and when “ex” is followed by a consonant, it’s pronounced as “eish”
          extremamente – Eishtremamente
          texto – teishto

          – usually, often, most times. Might not be always like this.

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