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The word "Christ
" and its compounds, including "Christmas", have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern "Xmas" was commonly used. "Christ" was often written as "XP" or "Xt"; there are references in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
as far back as AD 1021. This X and P arose as the uppercase
forms of the Greek letters χ
used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for "Christ"),
and are still widely seen in manyEastern Orthodox icons
depicting Jesus Christ
. The labarum
, an amalgamation of the two Greek letters rendered as ☧
, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic
, and Orthodox
The Oxford English Dictionary
(OED) and the OED Supplement have cited usages of "X-" or "Xp-" for "Christ-" as early as 1485. The terms "Xpian" and "Xtian" have also been used for "Christian". The dictionary further cites usage of "Xtianity" for "Christianity" from 1634.
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage
, most of the evidence for these words comes from "educated Englishmen who knew their Greek".
In ancient Christian art, χ and χρ are abbreviations for Christ's name.
In many manuscripts of the New Testament
, Χ is an abbreviation for Χριστος
, as is XC (the first and last letters in Greek, using the lunatesigma
compare IC for Jesus