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XXXX

[ fawr-eks for 1, 2; eks-eks-eks-eks for 2, 3; kwod-roo-pleks, kwo-droo-pleks for 3 also ]
/ ˈfɔrˈɛks for 1, 2; ˈɛksˌɛksˌɛksˈɛks for 2, 3; ˈkwɒd rʊˌplɛks, kwɒˈdru plɛks for 3 also /
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Symbol.

Sometimes 4X . extra-fine confectioners' sugar.
Chiefly British. (used to replace or obscure vulgar words that are four letters in length): One angry online review said the hamburgers there are overpriced and taste “like XXXX.”
XXX (used especially on the internet to refer to hard-core pornography).

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Origin of XXXX

First recorded in 1985–90 for def. 2; from the proprietary name of a brand of Australian beer, Castlemaine XXXX, with reduplicated X originally indicating the relative alcoholic content of the beer, later used to indicate an unknown, deleted, or suppressed word or name. This use of XXXX was popularized by a 1985 ad campaign, “Australians wouldn't give a XXXX for any other lager”
3. See X-rated.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

ABOUT THIS WORD

What else does XXXX mean?

In letters and text messages, XXXX symbolizes a series of kisses, used as an affectionate sign-off or goodbye.

It’s sometimes used to censor vulgar words or as filler text for unknown characters.

Where did XXXX come from?

The origin of XXXX to represent kisses is linked to XOXO, added at the end of letters and other messages to indicate “kisses and hugs,” with X standing for kiss and O, hug. This practice is said to date back to the Middle Ages, with X signed to represent the Christian cross at the of the document, which the signer then apparently sealed with a kiss as a show of sincerity.

In many cultures, notably in Europe and Latin America, it’s common to greet and part with friends and loved ones with a light kiss or kisses on the cheek. The custom may help explain why signing off a message with an X, XX, or XXXX is more common among people from those parts of the world.

XXXX started showing up online in the 1980s, earned entry on Urban Dictionary in 2003, and spread with the rise of social media and text/instant messaging in the 2000s.

Many Australians, meanwhile, know XXXX as a brand of beer brewed in Brisbane by Castlemaine Brewers. A 1980s advertisement for the beer ran the slogan: “Australians won’t give a XXXX for any other lager,” with the XXXX at once using X as an industry convention denoting ale strength and X as a stand in for an unknown or censored item. The ad helped popularize XXXX as a humorous replacement for a four-letter word (e.g., f**k).

How to use XXXX

XXXX is used globally, primarily in electronic communications like text messages and emails, to represent kisses or, more generally, mark an affectionate, loving, goodbye.

In the English-speaking world, XXXX is more prevalent (and especially as XX) in the UK, Australia, and Ireland than in the U.S. and Canada. While not necessarily romantic, it is familiar and often familial, inappropriate in professional contexts.

People tend to avoid XXX when communicating “kisses,” as the letters are associated with pornography. Sometimes, XXXX can signify pornographic content that bills itself as extra-explicit.

Some users pronounce XXXX as “kiss kiss kiss kiss.”

XXXX can also be a form of censorship, replacing four-letter swear words in online communities with policies against swearing. It’s also sometimes used to redact unoffensive text, such as the last four digits of phone numbers (mostly in the U.S. and Canada) or PIN numbers.

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

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