How well do you know the English language?
Quick! Try naming five words that start with the letter L. Lollipop, lazy, long, Labrador, like, language…and the list goes on and on. Now, try naming five words that start with the letter X. Xylophone, X-ray…not so easy, right? (These 17 English words have totally different meanings in other languages.)
Still racking your brain for more words that start with an X? You might want to stop because the Oxford English Dictionary only lists a mere 400 words that begin with the letter X. Here are a few more words to complete your list of five: xenization, xenagogy, xenial. But we wouldn’t expect people to know those off the top of their head because it’s a lot easier to show a xylophone on an ABC placemat for kindergarteners than xenization—which means the act of travelling as a stranger.
In fact, in Noah Webster’s Compendious Dictionary, which he published in 1806, there was only one word listed under the letter X: xebec, defined as “a small three-masted vessel in the Mediterranean.” In 1828, when he put together his American Dictionary, that number had only risen to 13. The number of words starting with the letter X continued to rise until it reached the 400 that we have today.
Next, check out these four mind-blowing facts about the English language.
Originally published as Can You Guess the Letter That Starts the Fewest Words in the English Language? on ReadersDigest.com.