Every other Scandinavian I know, barely uses X and writes it as ks. Same with Dutch. So why does the letter X exist in German when it could be written ks in German? Why is the letter X so common in Icelandic and German when other Germanic languages barely uses it? Couldn't X be written gs in Icelandic?

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    For a very long time, language and orthography was driven by scholars. And a scholar would probably rather strangle himself than to write Latin loanwords with "ks".
    – tofro
    Jan 6 at 21:36
  • @tofro: did the scandinavians have less scholars then or were these scholars more into choking than their german counterparts? ;-)
    – bakunin
    Jan 7 at 0:19
  • It is the same in Cyrillic. The is no letter corresponding to "x", one uses "ks".
    – Paul Frost
    Jan 7 at 15:19
  • @bakunin Swedish spells "maximal" as "maximal". Dutch as "maximaal". Maybe Danish scholars used to be more ruthless... (As you see, the OP's assumption that Icelandic with "x" is an outlier, severely lacks some proof. It seems that Danish with "ks" is)
    – tofro
    Jan 7 at 21:27
  • And "Dutch uses no X"? Their former Queen, present Queen and present King all have an "X" in their first name.....
    – tofro
    Jan 7 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


It is never easy to answer a question about why something did not happen, but here is my take on it:

Obviously nobody (at least nobody with enough influence to initiate a spelling reform) saw a convincing reason to drop the x in favor of ks. After all, it makes all words with x one character longer. You could argue that children don't have to learn how to write the letter x but they will still have to learn it if they learn a foreign language that uses x.

The only reason to eliminate x in favour of ks is to make the spelling perfectly regular and phonetic, as having a distinct letter for the ks combination of sounds makes German spelling somewhat irregular. But while German spelling is more phonetic than e.g. English spelling, making the spelling perfectly phonetic and regular was never a goal in German spelling reforms as this was not seen as a worthwile goal.

There are several irregularities in German spelling with respect to pronounciation. In this regard, German differs from other languages where lots of effort was taken to make the spelling as phonetc as possible by the use of accents. For example, the German letter e can be pronounced in at least three different ways, and while there are ways to indicate that an e has to be pronounced long, these are not always used to indicate a long e. Any spelling reform with the goal of making German perfectly phonetic would have to fix this, maybe by the use of accents. But because for native speakers it is generally easy to tell how an e is pronounced, nobody (as far as I know) undertook to initiate a spelling reform to do this.

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    "it makes all words with x one character longer" - ... and still doesn't remove the inconsistency that quite some 'x' sounds are actually spelt 'chs' in German. Also, for most 'x' sounds written as 'x', the replacement should actually be 'cks' rather than just 'ks', to make it obvious that "Kekse" has a long 'e', while "Heckse" has a short one. Jan 6 at 19:51

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