X in Spanish: 4 Ways to Pronounce La Equis with Examples & Audio

In this blog post, you’ll learn how to pronounce the X in Spanish.

How to PRONOUNCE the X in SPANISH (Hint: Most people do it wrong)

X PronunciationExample Words
Like the Spanish J soundMéxico, Xavier, Oaxaca, Texas, Xalapa
As the KS soundSexy, Axila, words starting with “ex” followed by “pr” or “pl”
As the S soundXochitl, Xochimilco, Taxco, Atlixco, Xochicalco, Xochitepec, words starting with “xeno-“
As the SH soundXcaret, Xel-Ha, Xoloitzcuintle

Confused yet? 

In this lesson, Spring Spanish teacher Paulisima, will teach you what makes the X so challenging to pronounce and useful tricks to make sure that you always get it right! 

1. X in Spanish as J sound

Remember that J sounds like a H in Spanish. Ja, je, ji, jo, ju. Quite often, words with X will sound like they were written with a J. 

The most famous example is the word Mexico. Remember that it’s not MeXico but México.

So, the original name of my beautiful and beloved nation was Meshico. The word is of Nahuatl, Aztec, origin. 

When the Spaniards invaded Mexico, they heard the name Meshico and they applied this rule made by King Alfonso the tenth, whereby the sound sh should be represented by the letter X. However, as languages evolve the Sh sound starts disappearing from the Spanish language, to the point where in the XVII century people didn’t pronounce it Meshico anymore but Mexico. 

Then the Spanish Royal Academy said it should be written “Mejico”…but we said: No, gracias. Y continuamos escribiendo Mexico con X. (No thanks. And we kept writing Mexico with X.)

Some other words where X sounds like the Spanish J: 

  • Xavier. 
  • Oaxaca. (A Mexican State)
  • Texas. 
  • Xalapa. (A Mexican city)

2. Letter X as KS 

  • Sexy (sexy)
  • Axila (Armpit)

We get the English X sound in: Las palabras que empiezan por la sílaba ex seguida del grupo pr (Words that start with the syllable ex followed by the pr)

  • exprimir (express)
  • expresamente (expressly) 

Almost all words that begin with the syllable ex followed by the group pl: 

  • explicar (explain)
  • explanada (esplanade)

Casi (almost), because we have exceptions like: 

  • espliego (lavender) 
  • esplendor y todos sus derivados (splendor and all its derivatives)  
how to pronounce x in spanish explained by female teacher

Words beginning with the prefix Ex. such as: 

  • excarcelar (release) 
  • extremo (extreme) 

Las palabras que empiezan por el prefijo extra (The words that start with the prefix extra)

  • extraordinario (extraordinary) 
  • extraterrestre (extraterrestral) 

3. Letter X in Spanish as S 

  • Xochitl 
  • Xochimilco 
  • Taxco 

These are all places in Mexico. Except for Xochitl which is a first name and the name of a soup! 

Xochitl. Xochimilco. Taxco. Atlixco. Xochicalco. Xochitepec.

These are all words from an indigenous Mexican language, so in this case the sound of X is completely different from the English sound. 

In words that start with xeno:

  • xenofobia (xenophobia) 
  • xenón (xenon)

4. X pronounced as SH 

  • Xcaret. 
  • Xel-Ha. 

Xcaret and Xel Ha, que son dos parques acuaticos naturales en la Riviera Maya, ampliamente recomendados (Xcaret and Xel Ha, which are two aquatic parks in the Riviera Maya, highly recommended) 

  • Xoloitzcuintle. 

Have you seen the Disney movie Coco?) Well, the dog in it, a hairless Mexican dog breed is a xoloescuincle. He’s also called xoloescuicle, I believe!

5. Equis as an adjective 

I’m sure that even if you don’t know all the ways the letter x is pronounced in Spanish, maybe you’re familiar with the beer “dos equis”! Did you know that… when it was launched in 1897, the original name of the beer was “siglo 20” (20th century)?)

And you know that 20 is written with 2 X in Roman numbers, so people started calling it “la cervezas a de las dos equis” (beer with two exes) so they changed the name!

Another thing you need to know is that the word “equis” means something else in Mexican Spanish. 

Let’s see: 

Hey Paulísima, ¿qué pasó con ese chico altísimo que te gustaba?  
(Hey Paulísima, what happened to that really tall guy that you liked?)

¡Tiene novia! 
(He has a girlfriend!)

¡Ay no pobrecita! 
(Oh no, poor little you!)

Ay no, equis. No pasa nada. 
(Oh! X. It’s ok.) 

Here X means that something is irrelevant, of little importance.

¿Se me ve bien este vestido?
(Does this dress look good on me?)

Sí se te ve bien, pero está muy equis.
(Yes, it looks good, but it is very plain.) 

Oye, ¿te gustó la de “Maid”?
(Hey, did you like “Maid”?)

Mmm… equis. 
(Mmm… meh.) 

Here equis means that something is not special at all, nothing that stands out or is particularly nice. It’s plain, simple in a good way = equis. 


Repeat after me:

Está equis. (It’s nothing special.) 

And all of this in action – as in real-life conversation:

¿Cómo está el restaurante? 
(How’s the restaurant?) 

Está equis. 
(It’s nothing special.)

Or, like this:

¿Cómo está la pelicula? 
(How’s the movie?)

Está equis. 
(It’s nothing special)

X isn’t the only tough letter and sound in Spanish. There are a few more, so let’s now have a look at the other tough sounds in Spanish.

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