Friday, April 20, 2012 , at 3:40 PM
A word so frequently used in our daily conversations still has elusive origins. Though many can now be considered “false etymologies,” there is still no conclusive proof on the origins of “OK” or “okay.”
"Okay" (also spelled "OK," "O.K.") is a colloquial English word denoting approval, acceptance, agreement, assent, or acknowledgment. "Okay" has frequently turned up as a loanword in many other languages. As an adjective, "okay" means "adequate," "acceptable" ("this is okay to send out"), "mediocre" often in contrast to "good" ("the food was okay"); it also functions as an adverb in this sense. As an interjection, it can denote compliance ("Okay, I will do that"), or agreement ("Okay, that's good").
- okeh An alternative English spelling, no longer common.Also see Okeh Records.
- kay or 'kay Notably used in Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny as a filler word by the maniacal Captain Queeg.
- k or kk Commonly used in instant messaging, or in SMS messages. Before the days of SMS, K was used as a Morse code prosign for "okay."
- Okie dokie Popularly known at least by the 1930s in "The Little Rascals" (Oki doki). The phrase can be extended further, e.g. "Okie dokie (ala) pokie / smokie / artichokie / karaoke / lokie," etc.
- okej Used in Poland, although ok is more common in written language; sometimes oki is said.
- ôkê Used in Vietnam; okey also used, but ok more commonly.
- okej Used in Swedish, Slovene, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian and sometimes Latvian; ok also used, but less common.
- oké Used in Dutch and Hungarian. In Dutch, okee, ok and okay are also used, but are less common in the formal written language.
- ookoo Used in Finland. Pronounced the same way as "OK," but spelled like the pronunciation of the letters.
- oukej Used in Czech and Slovak. Pronounced as the English OK. When written OK, it is pronounced [o:ka:]. Neither version recognized as official.
- óla kalá (όλα καλά) or O.K Used in Greek. The abbreviation is pronounced as the English OK.
Commonly Circulated Origins
A word so frequently used in our daily conversations still has elusive origins. Though many can now be considered “false etymologies,” there is still no conclusive proof on the origins of “OK” or “okay.” Among the most commonly circulated origins:
1839, only survivor of a slang fad in Boston and New York c.1838-9 for abbreviations of common phrases with deliberate, jocular misspellings (cf. K.G. for "no go," as if spelled "know go;" N.C. for "'nuff ced;" K.Y. for "know yuse"). In the case of O.K., the abbreviation is of "oll korrect."
Probably further popularized by use as an election slogan by the O.K. Club, New York boosters of Democratic president Martin Van Buren's 1840 re-election bid, in allusion to his nickname Old Kinderhook, from his birth in the N.Y. village of Kinderhook. Van Buren lost, the word stuck, in part because it filled a need for a quick way to write an approval on a document, bill, etc.
Spelled out as okeh. 1919, by Woodrow Wilson, on assumption that it represented Choctaw okeh "it is so" (a theory which lacks historical documentation); this was ousted quickly by okay after the appearance of that form in 1929. Greek immigrants to America who returned home early 20c. having picked up U.S. speech mannerisms were known in Greece as okay-boys, among other things.