Before we signed off our texts with kissy face emojis to the people we love, we probably used—and still use—a few XO's. We all know "XOXO" represents hugs and kisses, "X" standing for kisses, "O" for hugs.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, X can be "used to represent a kiss, esp. in the subscription to a letter." In its modern day use, people use the love and affection abbreviation to sign cards, emails, and in texts. They are seen on Valentine's Day sweetheart candies, T-shirts, and even in lyrics to songs.
But where did this come from?
Before we can talk about the theory of the XOXO origin, we must first take a look into the history of the "X."
Besides being a letter in our alphabet, "X" also has religious meaning behind it. "The X has always been a Christian symbol, and it is the first Greek letter in the name of 'Christ,'" Marcel Danesi, author of The History of the Kiss! The Birth of Pop Culture said in an interview with Mashable.
So how did "X" become the symbol for kiss?
"As far as I can tell, official letters in the medieval period and even after were literally sealed with the X - sealed with a kiss of faith, I guess," he added.
Many people of religious faith are known to kiss the Bible, kissing Christ. This reference to Christ can also explain how why Christmas is abbreviated to "Xmas."
Somewhere in the past, the symbol transformed from a religious one to a common romantic one. Back in the Middle Ages, people who couldn't read or write would sign documents with a simple "X." People would also kiss their "X" signature, kind of like sealing the deal.
Getting away from its religious to secular representation could also have to do with the changing times, as we entered into the Renaissance. While this is all just theory and speculation, by looking at historical documents, these theories seem to be on the mark.
Interestingly enough, the first written "X" used as a symbol to represent kiss appears in 1763. The naturalist Gilbert White is credited for this X that marks the spot. "I am with many a xxxxxxx and many a Pater noster (Our Father) and Ave Maria (Hail Mary), Gil. White," he wrote. However, some believe his "X's" represent blessing rather than kisses.
Winston Churchill also signed a letter with not one, but three kisses. "Please excuse bad writing as I am in an awful hurry. (Many kisses.) xxx WSC," he wrote.
Other speculation about the origin of the kiss symbol surrounds the idea that "X" simply looks like puckered-up lips. When paired with an "O," the letters look like and embrace or a kiss on the face. There is also the theory that XOXO came to be because it resembles tic-tac-toe, a game played even in ancient Egypt and Rome because it was easy to master, even by illiterate people.
Will the XOXO continue on in the future as emojis continue to become part of our written language?
"Today 15-year-old girls around world have new emoticons for love," said Scott Fahlman, a professor of language technology and inventor of the original smiley face emoticon. "One version is a <3 forming a heart."
Even if the language of love continues to evolve, chances are XOXO will still be around.
[PHOTO CREDIT: Duncan Rawlinson/Flickr]