The Latin from which French evolved has duo, duorum/duarum, duos, and so on, while the contemporary French pronunciation also omits the 'x'. Why did Middle French spell deux with an x?


It is due to a confusion. In the middle age, the custom was to abbreviate the words ending by -us into -x. So "deus" was written "dex", this tradition was kept, but, afterward, it was added a 'u' into "dex". For further information: https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abréviation_médiévale#X_(-us)

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    Can you give an example where this word is written "dex"?
    – fdb
    Nov 22 '18 at 18:05
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    You can find some examples here (notably p. 121, "parmi les flans qu’en vos dex mains"): digilib.phil.muni.cz/data/handle/11222.digilib/128666/…. I should point out in that time, in French, god and two were homograph both were written either "dex" or "deus". But, sometimes, in order to distinguish, the word 'god' was in upper case and the word 'two' was in small letter.
    – amegnunsen
    Nov 22 '18 at 20:46
  • Thanks for the reference. But if "dex" is just a scribal abbreviation why haven't the editors expanded the abbreviation? I don't see any other abbreviated words in this text.
    – fdb
    Nov 23 '18 at 11:19
  • It seems that the editors have not taken into consideration some abbreviations. I have found "homes" (p. 116), the abbreviation of hommes (men), without a tilde on 'o' ("on" & "om" was abbreviated 'õ'). Probably, those kinds of font or keyboard with these symbols doesn't exist or are not widespread.
    – amegnunsen
    Nov 23 '18 at 15:17

It comes from the Latin accusative plural masculine: duos. The oldest spellings in French are duos and deus, then deux, with x as an alternative spelling for final /s/, as in dix, yeux, and many other words. It is not true that the contemporary French pronunciation "omits the x"; the x is still pronounced (as /z/) in liaison.

More here: http://www.cnrtl.fr/etymologie/deux

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    And in deuxième, also as /z/
    – Michaelyus
    Nov 22 '18 at 16:14
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    Its pronunciation in a liaison context is true, however /z/ does not even approach the latin/English x sound. The question was why medieval French writing started inserting x for -us in deus, another answer seems to say it began as a form of abbreviation.
    – Cheetaiean
    Nov 22 '18 at 17:33

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