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 memor.

o maxilarjaw

o táxitaxi

xicotoxic

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:

ximomaximum

próximoclose (to, by)

4. “zzz”

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

o exameexam

existeexists

o exemploexample

exaustoexhausted

exatoexact

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:

extraextra

extremamenteextremely

exportaçãoexportation

explorarto explore

exceçãoexception

excelenteexcellent

excêntricoexcentric

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

fixecool

de luxoluxury

luxuosoluxurious

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 🤓

Comments

What Did You Think? Leave Us a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The subject is used only for admin purposes and won't be displayed in your comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.