What Does XOXO Mean and Where Did It Come From?


Getty Images / Design by Zackary Angeline

You're probably more than a little familiar with the phrase XOXO. You've most likely used it yourself, whether that was to sign a card to someone or to send a sweet text message. It's universally known as a message of love and affection, but have you ever wondered exactly what XOXO really means or where it even came from?

To learn more about this simple phrase and find out unique ways to use it in your own wedding, we spoke with wedding experts Ajay Anand and Aviva Samuels. Read on to learn about the history behind XOXO and how to make it part of your special day.

Meet the Expert

  • Ajay Anand is a wedding industry professional. He is the CEO of Rare Carat, a diamond and engagement marketplace.
  • Aviva Samuels of Kiss the Planner is a destination wedding planner with over 20 years of experience in planning and designing weddings and events. She has been published in numerous publications and has many awards under her belt. 

What Does XOXO Mean?

It's pretty common knowledge that XOXO means "hugs and kisses." As Dictionary.com defines it, the phrase is generally thought of as a "lighthearted way of expressing affection, sincerity, or deep friendship."

The X represents a kiss, while the O represents a hug. This is most likely because the X is a stylized way of showing two mouths kissing, and the O looks like two pairs of arms connecting for a hug. While XOXO is a symbol of love, it's not always meant to be taken as a symbol of undying passion. XOXO is just as appropriate to use as an email sign-off to a friend as it is to use to sign an anniversary card to a significant other.

What Is the History of XOXO?

You have to wonder where XOXO actually came from. While it's easy to assume it was invented by Hallmark for greeting cards, the history is actually a lot more interesting and complicated. We don't know exactly where XOXO came from, but there are plenty of theories out there.

One theory takes XOXO all the way back to the Middle Ages. "Tracing back to the Middle Ages, historians today believe that since many people could not read or write, they would use the 'X' symbol to sign important documents, meant to represent sincerity, faith, and honesty," says Samuels. "The signer then kissed the cross, as a display of their sworn oath."

Anand also notes that the most popular theory behind the history of XOXO is rooted in Christianity. "Turns out, an X looks a bit like a cross, and it was seen as a salutation representing goodwill," he shares. Historians also say that X meant Christ, and it's a symbol they still see in medieval churches.

But what about the O? The explanation for how it ended up symbolizing a hug is a bit murkier. "Historians continue to theorize that Jewish immigrants arriving in the U.S. that could not read or write used a circular symbol in place of their signature, since a cross did not align with their religious beliefs," Samuels says.

Historians aren't sure when X and O came together to become XOXO. But The Washington Post notes that one of the earliest documented instances of reading XOXO was in a published letter in 1960. It's clear that, at some point, people put both of these symbols together, making them into the popular phrase we know today.

How to Incorporate XOXO Into Your Wedding

Because of its romantic implications, XOXO is often used in weddings in some way, whether in the décor or on the invitations. If you love the meaning of the phrase, we've put together some unique ways you can use it for your special day.

XOXO Manicures

Adding XOXO into your nail art is subtle but still romantic and sweet. Anand notes, "One of our customers gave her bridesmaids custom XOXO manicures (alternating letters on each finger) by a professional nail artist before the wedding." As the bride, you could match your own nails to your bridesmaids, or do something a little different, like different colors or designs.

XOXO Balloons

"A popular trend is the 'X' and 'O' wedding balloons, used to accent centerpieces," Anand adds. XOXO balloons are easy to find and will add an element of playfulness to your wedding décor—they're also great at bridal showers or bachelorette parties. And feel free to use them as a DIY photo prop: "I’ve also seen the bridal party hold up letters in their photos to liven up the seriousness of staged pics."

XOXO Stationery

You can always throw XOXO into at least one piece of wedding stationery. "I love the idea of using 'XOXO' at the bottom of your wedding stationery, including the invitations, menus, escort cards, table numbers, and the envelope used to mail the invitation," Samuels says. "It fits right in line with the romantic practice of signing notes and letters with XOXO symbols. In fact, 'Sealed With a Kiss' makes a really cute wedding theme."

XOXO-Inspired Photos

Not sure what to use as a photo prop for your engagement photos? Try sprinkling in some XOXO. Samuels recommends using it for save the date cards or bridal shower invites. "Try it with a kissing and hugging photo of the two of you, holding XO balloons, laying with XO pillows, or drinking from XO mugs," she says.

XOXO Jewelry

Another subtle way to include XOXO is through your wedding jewelry. "My favorite was the bride who wore a beautiful XOXO necklace on her wedding day," Anand says. "It was a simple but lovely way to incorporate the timeless phrase into the event." You can also wear an XOXO bracelet, or buy them for the bridal party.

XOXO Cocktails

For those who are opting for signature cocktails and aren't sure what theme to chose, XOXO is a great idea. Samuels recommends naming the cocktails "Hugs" and "Kisses." Her ideas: "A 'Warm Hug' is typically made with Creme de Cacao or a chocolate liquor, Irish cream, and whipped cream. Make a 'Spicy Kiss' with gin, sweet vermouth, Dubonnet Rouge (a French herbed, aromatized wine), and maraschino liqueur. Or instead choose a 'French Kiss' made with vodka, Chambourd, mint simple syrup, champagne, and fresh lemon juice, garnished with raspberries."

Article Sources
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  1. The Washington Post. "A whole lot of history behind ‘x’ and ‘o,’ kiss and hug." February 13, 2014.

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