For a long time I never knew why some people signed off their letters with xoxo until I asked someone. That person smiled at me and said, “Its hugs and kisses, you silly !”.
Doh! It dawned on me then. So I did a bit of research and here is what I found –
Hugs and Kisses is a term for a sequence of the letters X and O, e.g. XOXO, typically used by lovers to express affection at the end of a written letter or email.
It is debatable which letter represents which act. Some interpret X as the crossed arms of a hug and O as the puckered lips of a kiss. However, the interpretation assumed in the following, in which X represents the four lips of a kiss and O the four arms of a hug, is more common.
The use of XOXO goes back to the use of an X or cross, which was considered as good as a sworn oath in times before most people could write and therefore used the X in the same way a signature is used today — a mark of one’s word.
An X at the end of a letter or document was often kissed as a seal of honesty, in much the same way one would kiss a Bible or kiss the fingers after making the sign of the cross, thus the X came to represent a kiss in modern times.
The origins of the O as a hug are not generally known, although it is speculated that it may represent the arms wrapped around someone being hugged. Another thought is that it came from Jewish immigrants who would sign with an O instead of an X because they did not wish to mark their word with the obviously non-Jewish cross the X represented.
It is also said that X represents kisses because the letter X in Spanish is named “equis” which has a similar pronunciation as “a kiss”.