The Origins of “OK”

The phrase “OK” is everywhere, but where did it get its start? A new book tackles its history, and NPR interviews the author, Allan Metcalf. The phrase originated with a few newspaper editors in 1839. “They had a lot of abbreviations that they were using and made up on the spot and thought they were terrifically funny,” says Metcalf. “And OK was an abbreviation for ‘All Correct.'” The phrase gathered momentum during the 1840 re-election campaign of Martin Van Buren. “He got the nickname Old Kinderhook, and early in 1840, OK clubs sprung up with the slogan, ‘OK is OK.’ So taking that funny little word and making it a mainstay of the political conversation in 1840, suddenly OK was way OK.” All right then. [%comments]


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  1. tmants says:

    There is Greek myth that says OK is coming through the greek phrase “Ολα Καλά” which means “Everything Checked and is Fine” and used to be what Greek ships used to write on boxes and containers. Thereafter becuase of the scale of Greek ship Industry this was exported and used across the world.

    No idea if it is true or not, just heard about it at some point.

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  2. Greg says:

    It occurs to me that the origin of OK is in fact from the Burmese word for Yes, phonetic spelling houq-keh which sounds just like OK when spoken.

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  3. Amadou M. Sall says:

    The most plausible hypothesis: the West African, or more precisely Wolof (Senegal) one. In fact “OK” comes from the Wolof “Waaw Kay”, pronounced very much like “OK”. ( Wolof happens to be my own mother tongue, and I can assure you Wolof speakers use “Waaw Kay” with exactly the same meaning as “OK” and in all situations where English-speakers would use “OK”…

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