Voiceless velar fricative

The voiceless velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. It was part of the consonant inventory of Old English and can still be found in some dialects of English, most notably in Scottish English, e.g. in loch, broch or saugh (willow).

Voiceless velar fricative
IPA Number140
Entity (decimal)x
Unicode (hex)U+0078
Audio sample

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is x, the Latin letter x. It is also used in broad transcription instead of the symbol χ, the Greek chi, for the voiceless uvular fricative.

There is also a voiceless post-velar fricative (also called pre-uvular) in some languages. For voiceless pre-velar fricative (also called post-palatal), see voiceless palatal fricative.


Features of the voiceless velar fricative:

  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords. In some languages the vocal cords are actively separated, so it is always voiceless; in others the cords are lax, so that it may take on the voicing of adjacent sounds.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.


xplain velar fricative
xʷʼejective labialised
x̹ʷstrongly labialised
xʲʼejective palatalised


The voiceless velar fricative and its labialized variety are postulated to have occurred in Proto-Germanic, the ancestor of the Germanic languages, as the reflex of the Proto-Indo-European voiceless palatal and velar stops and the labialized voiceless velar stop. Thus Proto-Indo-European *r̥nom "horn" and *ód "what" became Proto-Germanic *hurnan and *hwat, where *h and *hw were likely [x] and [xʷ]. This sound change is part of Grimm's law.

In Modern Greek, the voiceless velar fricative (with its allophone the voiceless palatal fricative [ç], occurring before front vowels) originated from the Ancient Greek voiceless aspirated stop /kʰ/ in a sound change that lenited Greek aspirated stops into fricatives.

Adygheхы[xəː] 'six'
Albaniangjuha[ɟuxɑ]'language'Allophone of /h/. See Albanian phonology
AleutAtkan dialectalax[ɑlɑx]'two'
ArabicModern Standardخضراء[xadˤraːʔ]'green' (f.)May be velar, post-velar or uvular, depending on dialect.[1] See Arabic phonology
Assyrianܚܡܫܐ emša[xεmʃa]'five'
Avarчeхь / ҫeẋ[tʃex]'belly'
Azerbaijanix / хош/خوش[xoʃ]'pleasant'
BasqueSome speakers[2]jan[xän]'to eat'Either velar or post-velar.[2] For other speakers it's [j ~ ʝ ~ ɟ].[3]
Bretonhor c'hi[or xiː]'our dog'
Bulgarianтихо / tiho[ˈt̪ixo] 'quietly'Described as having "only slight friction" ([x̞]).[4]
ChineseMandarin / hé[xɤ˧˥]'river'See Standard Chinese phonology
Czechchlap[xlap]'guy'See Czech phonology
DanishSouthern Jutlandickage[ˈkʰæːx]'cake'See Sønderjysk dialect
DutchStandard Belgian[5][6]acht[ɑxt]'eight'May be post-palatal [ç̠] instead. In dialects spoken above the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Waal the corresponding sound is a postvelar-uvular fricative trill [ʀ̝̊˖].[6] See Dutch phonology
Southern Netherlands accents[6][7]
EnglishScottishloch[ɫɔx]'loch'Younger speakers may merge this sound with /k/.[8][9] See Scottish English phonology
Scouse[10]book[bʉːx]'book'A syllable-final allophone of /k/ (lenition).
Esperantomonaĥo[monaxo]'monk'See Esperanto phonology
Estonianjah[jɑx]'yes'Allophone of /h/. See Estonian phonology
Finnishkahvi[ˈkɑxʋi]'coffee'Allophone of /h/. See Finnish phonology
Frenchjota[xɔta]'jota'Occurs only in loanwords (from Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, etc.). See French phonology
Georgian[11]ჯო / joxi[ˈdʒɔxi]'stick'
GermanBuch[buːx] 'book'See Standard German phonology
Greekτέχνη / ch[ˈte̞xni]'art'See Modern Greek phonology
HebrewBiblicalמִיכָאֵל/micha'el[mixaʔel]'Michael'See Biblical Hebrew phonology
Hindustani Hindi ख़ुशी/khushii/k͟hushī [xʊʃiː] 'happiness' Sometimes replaced in Hindi with /kʰ/. See Hindustani phonology
Urdu خوشی/khushii/k͟hushī
Hungariansahhal[ʃɒxːɒl]'with a shah'See Hungarian phonology
Icelandicoktóber[ˈɔxtoːupɛr̥]'October'See Icelandic phonology
Indonesiankhas[xas]'typical'Occurs in Arabic loanwords. Often pronounced as [h] or [k] by some Indonesians. See Indonesian phonology
Irishdeoch[dʲɔ̝̈x]'drink'See Irish phonology
Japanese発表 / happyō[xa̠p̚ʲpʲo̞ː]'announcement'Allophone of /h/. See Japanese phonology
Kabardianхы[xəː] 'sea'
Korean흥정 / heungjeong[xɯŋd͡ʑʌŋ]'bargaining'Allophone of /h/ before /ɯ/. See Korean phonology
Kurdishxanî[xɑːˈniː]'house'See Kurdish phonology
Limburgish[12][13]loch[lɔx]'air'The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Lishan Didan Urmi Dialect חלבא / xalwa [xalwɑ] 'milk' Generally post-velar
Lithuanianchoras[ˈxɔrɐs̪]'choir'Occurs only in loanwords (usually international words)
MacedonianОхрид / Ohrid[ˈɔxrit] 'Ohrid'See Macedonian phonology
Malayاخير / akhir[axir]'last', 'end'Occurs in Arabic loanwords. Often pronounced as [h] or [k]. See Malay phonology
Nepali आँखा [ä̃xä] 'eye' Allophone of /kʰ/. See Nepali phonology
NorwegianUrban East[14]hat[xɑːt]'hate'Possible allophone of /h/ near back vowels; can be voiced [ɣ] between two voiced sounds.[14] See Norwegian phonology
Persianدُختَر/dokhtar[dox'tær]'daughter'See Persian phonology
Polish[15]chleb[xlɛp]'bread'Also (in great majority of dialects) represented orthographically by h. See Polish phonology
PortugueseFluminensearte[ˈaxtɕi]'art'In free variation with [χ], [ʁ], [ħ] and [h] before voiceless consonants
General Brazilian[16]arrasto[ɐ̞ˈxastu]'I drag'Some dialects, corresponds to rhotic consonant /ʁ/. See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi Gurmukhi ਖ਼ਬਰ/khabar [xəbəɾ] 'news'
Shahmukhi خبر/khabar
Romanianhram[xräm]'patronal feast of a church'Allophone of /h/. See Romanian phonology
Russian[17]хороший / khoroshiy[xɐˈr̠ʷo̞ʂɨ̞j] 'good'See Russian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[18]drochaid[ˈt̪ɾɔxɪtʲ]'bridge'See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatianхраст / hrast[xrâːst]'oak'See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Somalikhad[xad]'ink'See Somali phonology
Spanish[19]Latin American[20]ojo[ˈo̞xo̞]'eye'May be glottal instead;[20] in northern and central Spain it is often post-velar[20][21][22] or uvular /χ/.[22][23] See Spanish phonology
Southern Spain[20]
Tagalogbakit[baxit]'why'Allophone of /k/ in intervocalic positions. See Tagalog phonology
Turkish[24]ıhlamur[ɯxlamuɾ]'linden'Allophone of /h/.[24] See Turkish phonology
Tyapkham[xam]1. 'calabash'; 2. 'prostitute'
Xhosarhoxisa[xɔkǁiːsa]'to cancel'
Ukrainianхлопець / chlopeć[ˈxɫɔ̝pɛt͡sʲ]'boy'See Ukrainian phonology
Uzbek[25][example needed]Post-velar. Occurs in environments different than word-initially and pre-consonantally, otherwise it is pre-velar.[25]
Vietnamese[26]không[xəwŋ͡m˧]'no', 'not', 'zero'See Vietnamese phonology
Yi / he[xɤ˧]'good'
ZapotecTilquiapan[27]mejor[mɘxoɾ]'better'Used primarily in loanwords from Spanish

See also


  1. Watson (2002), pp. 17, 19–20, 35–36 and 38.
  2. Hualde & Ortiz de Urbina (2003), pp. 16 and 26.
  3. Hualde & Ortiz de Urbina (2003), p. 16.
  4. Ternes, Elmer; Vladimirova-Buhtz, Tatjana (1999). "Bulgarian". Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. Cambridge University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-521-63751-0.
  5. Verhoeven (2005:243)
  6. Collins & Mees (2003:191)
  7. Gussenhoven (1999:74)
  8. Annexe 4: Linguistic Variables
  9. "University of Essex :: Department of Language and Linguistics :: Welcome". Essex.ac.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  10. Wells (1982:373)
  11. Shosted & Chikovani (2006), p. 255.
  12. Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:159)
  13. Peters (2006:119)
  14. Vanvik (1979), p. 40.
  15. Jassem (2003), p. 103.
  16. Barbosa & Albano (2004), pp. 5–6.
  17. Padgett (2003), p. 42.
  18. Oftedal, M. (1956) The Gaelic of Leurbost. Oslo. Norsk Tidskrift for Sprogvidenskap.
  19. Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 255.
  20. Chen (2007), p. 13.
  21. Hamond (2001:?), cited in Scipione & Sayahi (2005:128)
  22. Lyons (1981), p. 76.
  23. Harris & Vincent (1988), p. 83.
  24. Göksel & Kerslake (2005:6)
  25. Sjoberg (1963), pp. 11–12.
  26. Thompson (1959), pp. 458–461.
  27. Merrill (2008), p. 109.