Voiceless velar fricative
IPA Number140
Entity (decimal)x
Unicode (hex)U+0078
Audio sample

The voiceless velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. It was part of the consonant inventory of Old English and can still be found in some dialects of English, most notably in Scottish English, e.g. in loch, broch or saugh (willow).

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨x⟩, the Latin letter x. It is also used in broad transcription instead of the symbol ⟨χ⟩, the Greek chi, for the voiceless uvular fricative.

There is also a voiceless post-velar fricative (also called pre-uvular) in some languages. For voiceless pre-velar fricative (also called post-palatal), see voiceless palatal fricative.


Features of the voiceless velar fricative:


IPA Description
x plain velar fricative
xʷʼ ejective labialised
x̜ʷ semi-labialised
x̹ʷ strongly labialised
xʲʼ ejective palatalised


The voiceless velar fricative and its labialized variety are postulated to have occurred in Proto-Germanic, the ancestor of the Germanic languages, as the reflex of the Proto-Indo-European voiceless palatal and velar stops and the labialized voiceless velar stop. Thus Proto-Indo-European *r̥nom "horn" and *ód "what" became Proto-Germanic *hurnan and *hwat, where *h and *hw were likely [x] and [xʷ]. This sound change is part of Grimm's law.

In Modern Greek, the voiceless velar fricative (with its allophone the voiceless palatal fricative [ç], occurring before front vowels) originated from the Ancient Greek voiceless aspirated stop /kʰ/ in a sound change that lenited Greek aspirated stops into fricatives.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abaza хьзы [xʲzə] 'name'
Adyghe хы audio speaker icon[xəː]  'six'
Albanian gjuha [ɟuxɑ] 'language' Allophone of /h/. See Albanian phonology
Aleut Atkan dialect alax [ɑlɑx] 'two'
Arabic Modern Standard خضراء [xadˤraːʔ] 'green' (f.) May be velar, post-velar or uvular, depending on dialect.[1] See Arabic phonology
Assamese মীয়া [ɔxɔmia] 'Assamese'
Assyrian ܚܡܫܐ emša [xεmʃa] 'five'
Avar чeхь / ҫeẋ [tʃex] 'belly'
Azerbaijani x / хош/خوش [xoʃ] 'pleasant'
Basque Some speakers[2] jan [xän] 'to eat' Either velar or post-velar.[2] For other speakers it's [j ~ ʝ ~ ɟ].[3]
Breton hor c'hi [or xiː] 'our dog'
Bulgarian тихо / tiho audio speaker icon[ˈt̪ixo]  'quietly' Described as having "only slight friction" ([x̞]).[4]
Catalan kharja [ˈxɑɾ(d)ʑɐ] 'kharjah' Found in loanwords and interjections. See Catalan phonology
Chinese Mandarin / hé [xɤ˧˥] 'river' See Standard Chinese phonology
Czech chlap [xlap] 'guy' See Czech phonology
Danish Southern Jutlandic kage [ˈkʰæːx] 'cake' See Sønderjysk dialect
Dutch Standard Belgian[5][6] acht [ɑxt] 'eight' May be post-palatal [ç̠] instead. In dialects spoken above the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Waal the corresponding sound is a postvelar-uvular fricative trill [ʀ̝̊˖].[6] See Dutch phonology
Southern Netherlands accents[6][7]
English Scottish loch [ɫɔx] 'loch' Younger speakers may merge this sound with /k/.[8][9] See Scottish English phonology
Scouse[10] book [bʉːx] 'book' A syllable-final allophone of /k/ (lenition).
Esperanto monaĥo [monaxo] 'monk' See Esperanto phonology
Estonian jah [jɑx] 'yes' Allophone of /h/. See Estonian phonology
Eyak duxł [tʊxɬ] 'traps'
Finnish kahvi [ˈkɑxʋi] 'coffee' Allophone of /h/. See Finnish phonology
French jota [xɔta] 'jota' Occurs only in loanwords (from Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, etc.). See French phonology
Georgian[11] ჯო / joxi [ˈdʒɔxi] 'stick'
German Buch audio speaker icon[buːx]  'book' See Standard German phonology
Greek τέχνη / ch [ˈte̞xni] 'art' See Modern Greek phonology
Hebrew Biblical מִיכָאֵל/micha'el [mixaʔel] 'Michael' See Biblical Hebrew phonology
Hindustani Hindi ख़ुशी/khushii/k͟hushī [xʊʃiː] 'happiness' Sometimes replaced in Hindi with /kʰ/. See Hindustani phonology
Urdu خوشی/khushii/k͟hushī
Hungarian sahhal [ʃɒxːɒl] 'with a shah' See Hungarian phonology
Icelandic október [ˈɔxtoːupɛr̥] 'October' See Icelandic phonology
Indonesian khas [xas] 'typical' Occurs in Arabic loanwords. Often pronounced as [h] or [k] by some Indonesians. See Indonesian phonology
Irish deoch [dʲɔ̝̈x] 'drink' See Irish phonology
Japanese 発表 / happyō [xa̠p̚ʲpʲo̞ː] 'announcement' Allophone of /h/. See Japanese phonology
Kabardian хы audio speaker icon[xəː]  'sea'
Korean 흥정 / heungjeong [xɯŋd͡ʑʌŋ] 'bargaining' Allophone of /h/ before /ɯ/. See Korean phonology
Kurdish xanî [xɑːˈniː] 'house' See Kurdish phonology
Limburgish[12][13] loch [lɔx] 'air' The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Lishan Didan Urmi Dialect חלבא / xalwa [xalwɑ] 'milk' Generally post-velar
Lithuanian choras [ˈxɔrɐs̪] 'choir' Occurs only in loanwords (usually international words)
Lojban xatra [xatra] 'letter'
Macedonian Охрид / Ohrid audio speaker icon[ˈɔxrit]  'Ohrid' See Macedonian phonology
Malay اخير / akhir [axir] 'last', 'end' Occurs in Arabic loanwords. Often pronounced as [h] or [k]. See Malay phonology
Manx aashagh [ˈɛːʒax] 'easy'
Nepali आँखा [ä̃xä] 'eye' Allophone of /kʰ/. See Nepali phonology
Norwegian Urban East[14] hat [xɑːt] 'hate' Possible allophone of /h/ near back vowels; can be voiced [ɣ] between two voiced sounds.[14] See Norwegian phonology
Persian دُختَر/dokhtar [dox'tær] 'daughter' See Persian phonology
Polish[15] chleb [xlɛp] 'bread' Also (in great majority of dialects) represented orthographically by ⟨h⟩. See Polish phonology
Portuguese Fluminense arte [ˈaxtɕi] 'art' In free variation with [χ], [ʁ], [ħ] and [h] before voiceless consonants
General Brazilian[16] arrasto [ɐ̞ˈxastu] 'I drag' Some dialects, corresponds to rhotic consonant /ʁ/. See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi Gurmukhi ਖ਼ਬਰ/khabar [xəbəɾ] 'news'
Shahmukhi خبر/khabar
Romanian hram [xräm] 'patronal feast of a church' Allophone of /h/. See Romanian phonology
Russian[17] хороший / khoroshiy audio speaker icon[xɐˈr̠ʷo̞ʂɨ̞j]  'good' See Russian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[18] drochaid [ˈt̪ɾɔxɪtʲ] 'bridge' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatian храст / hrast [xrâːst] 'oak' See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Slovak chlap [xɫäp] 'guy'
Somali khad [xad] 'ink' Occurs in predominantly Arabic loan words. Allophone of /q/. See Somali phonology
Spanish[19] Latin American[20] ojo [ˈo̞xo̞] 'eye' May be glottal instead;[20] in northern and central Spain it is often post-velar[20][21][22] or uvular /χ/.[22][23] See Spanish phonology
Southern Spain[20]
Sylheti ꠛꠞ/khabar [xɔ́bɔɾ] 'news'
Tagalog bakit [baxit] 'why' Allophone of /k/ in intervocalic positions. See Tagalog phonology
Turkish[24] ıhlamur [ɯxlamuɾ] 'linden' Allophone of /h/.[24] See Turkish phonology
Tyap kham [xam] 1. 'calabash'; 2. 'prostitute'
Xhosa rhoxisa [xɔkǁiːsa] 'to cancel'
Ukrainian хлопець / chlopeć [ˈxɫɔ̝pɛt͡sʲ] 'boy' See Ukrainian phonology
Uzbek[25] [example needed] Post-velar. Occurs in environments different than word-initially and pre-consonantally, otherwise it is pre-velar.[25]
Vietnamese[26] không [xəwŋ͡m˧] 'no', 'not', 'zero' See Vietnamese phonology
Yaghan xan [xan] 'here'
Yi / he [xɤ˧] 'good'
Zapotec Tilquiapan[27] mejor [mɘxoɾ] 'better' Used primarily in loanwords from Spanish

See also


  1. ^ Watson (2002), pp. 17, 19–20, 35–36 and 38.
  2. ^ a b Hualde & Ortiz de Urbina (2003), pp. 16 and 26.
  3. ^ Hualde & Ortiz de Urbina (2003), p. 16.
  4. ^ Ternes, Elmer; Vladimirova-Buhtz, Tatjana (1999). "Bulgarian". Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. Cambridge University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-521-63751-0.
  5. ^ Verhoeven (2005:243)
  6. ^ a b c Collins & Mees (2003:191)
  7. ^ Gussenhoven (1999:74)
  8. ^ Annexe 4: Linguistic Variables
  9. ^ "University of Essex :: Department of Language and Linguistics :: Welcome". Essex.ac.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  10. ^ Wells (1982:373)
  11. ^ Shosted & Chikovani (2006), p. 255.
  12. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:159)
  13. ^ Peters (2006:119)
  14. ^ a b Vanvik (1979), p. 40.
  15. ^ Jassem (2003), p. 103.
  16. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004), pp. 5–6.
  17. ^ Padgett (2003), p. 42.
  18. ^ Oftedal, M. (1956) The Gaelic of Leurbost. Oslo. Norsk Tidskrift for Sprogvidenskap.
  19. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 255.
  20. ^ a b c d Chen (2007), p. 13.
  21. ^ Hamond (2001:?), cited in Scipione & Sayahi (2005:128)
  22. ^ a b Lyons (1981), p. 76.
  23. ^ Harris & Vincent (1988), p. 83.
  24. ^ a b Göksel & Kerslake (2005:6)
  25. ^ a b Sjoberg (1963), pp. 11–12.
  26. ^ Thompson (1959), pp. 458–461.
  27. ^ Merrill (2008), p. 109.