1896, X-rays, translation of German X-strahlen, from X, algebraic symbol for an unknown quantity, + Strahl (plural Strahlen) "beam, ray." Coined 1895 by German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923), who discovered them, to suggest that the exact nature of the rays was unknown. As a verb by 1899. Meaning "image made using X-rays" is from 1934, earlier in this sense was X-radiograph (1899).
updated on October 10, 2017