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Letter X in Portuguese – How to Pronounce It

Regarding pronunciation, the letter X is quite challenging for those learning Portuguese. Here is why:

In Portuguese, the letter X stands for four different language sounds, namely, the /ʃ/-sound (as in shape), the /ks/-sound (as in tax), the /z/-sound (as in zen), and the /s/-sound (as in sun).

Luckily, a few spelling patterns will make it easier for you. Learning these patterns and keeping them in the back of your mind will allow you, in most cases, to guess it right. Read on.

Letter X and its sounds - Portuguesepedia
Because Pronunciation Matters.


The most common language sound produced by X is, by far, the /ʃ/-sound (as is ashes). Let’s look at a few spelling patterns rendering the /ʃ/-sound.

Words starting with X

Virtually all Portuguese words starting with an X render the /ʃ/-sound. Here are a few examples: 

  • xeque (check)
  • xarope (syrup)
  • xerife (sheriff)
  • xenofobia (xenophobia)
  • xícara (tea-cup)
  • . . .

X in front of a consonant

Also, whenever the letter X stands right before another consonant, it will produce the /ʃ/-sound. Many of the words in this group have English cognates wherein the X renders a /ks/-sound instead:

  • texto (text)
  • explorar (explore)
  • extremo (extreme)
  • expectativa (expectation)
  • exterior (exterior)
  • . . .

X in between vowels

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Olá! This is Pedro and I'm the founder of Portuguesepedia, a platform created to support and accelerate your Portuguese learning journey. Até já, p

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