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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


“Okay”. A 4 letter word. Originally coming from the word “OK”. The etymology of “OK” has many variations, some English, some French, some German, some Greek, and so many more. “Okay” is a word that is easily altered by tone to convey a clear thought.

The etymology of the word has been questioned time and time again. In English the word has several etymologies. “OK” was the only survivor of a series of slang words used in Boston and in New York in 1838 to 1839. These slang words were used as abbreviations of common phrases with intentional misspellings. For example there was “K.G,” spelled “know go,” and which meant “no go”. There was “N.C,” for “'nuff ced,” and “K.Y.” for “know yuse.” In this time, “O.K.” the shortened version was “oll korrect.” Not long after, in 1840 “O.K.” was used as an election slogan by the O.K. Club, they were the boosters of president Martin Van Buren's re-eclection bid. OK was Van Buren's nickname, denoted to be “Old Kinderhook” because he was born in the village of Kinderhook. Van Buren lost, but the word stuck. Mostly it stuck because it was easy to quickly write up a bill or document. Also, in 1932 “Okey-doke” was often used by students as a form of slang that referred to “oll korrect”. It still is in use today, thought it is not as popular.

In French, the word “O.K” came from the french “au(x) quai(s)” meaning “to the dock.” It started in 1803 and it has been used in the exporting of cotton bales in New Orleans. In 1963, Martin R. Wall stated that he had known of this being said in France.

In German, “O.K.” was used as the initials of “Ober Kommando” meaning “High Command”. This was used in the 1780's by Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a military officer who served as inspector general and Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He used “O.K.” when he was writing out letters and order. These letters and orders were later reprinted in an article for the Omaha Tribune.

In Greek, “O.K.” was the initials of “Ola Kala” (Oλα Καλά), which means “everything is fine.” This was used in 1913 by Greek teachers when they were marking their students' work. Because Greek shipping was such a part of their economy in that time “O.K.” was spread by sailors all around the world.
The word “Okay” is a simple and easy way to convey a thought or feeling. “Okay” can be easily altered by tone. For example, if you answer someone's request with an “okay” in a pouting tone it sounds like you're saying: “I don't want to do this,” however, you are only using one word. Also, some people view “Okay” as a level of enthusiasm or happiness. For example, when asking someone if a movie was good they could answer that it was “okay”. For that person, “okay” may mean that the movie was quite enjoyable, but for others it might seem as if the movie was simply barely adequate to them.

Each person views the word “okay” in a different way. Be it culture, feelings, or something more.

1. Wikipedia, List of Proposed Etymologies of OK,

2. Online Etymology Dictionary, “term”,

3. Oxford English Dictionary, “OK, adj., int., n., and adv.”,

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