While signing with “X”s and “O”s has become synonymous with hugs and kisses, the reasoning as to why this is so widely acknowledged so may not be as obvious.
Assessing the Symbolism
We will be tackling these symbols in alphabetical order.
The letter O is used as a representation of the pursed lips from someone applying a kiss.
The letter X is used as a representation of wrapping one’s arms around the letter’s recipient, resulting in a crossing of the arms.
Origins of the Expression
While this expression begins to pop up in litters and missives from the Middle Ages upward, the cross and circles carried slightly different meanings back then; the X was commonly used in signing documents and to serve as a general symbol of goodness and love, this X was then kissed as a symbol of one’s sincerity to the gesture. Furthermore, the letter X’s close similarity to the Greek word for Jesus Christ’s name and general relationship with the Christian church continued this tradition of kissing the X in reverence of God, holiness and love. One last thing to bear in mind with signing a letter with X was that it was the common signature of illiterate laypersons.
Another, contrary, explanation for signing O comes from Jewish immigrants to the United States. These individuals, whom were first taught Yiddish and held no reverence for the cross, were said to sign documentation with an O.