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Okay, OK, Oh Kay or O.K. is a colloquial English word denoting approval, assent, or acknowledgment that has been a loanword from English for many other languages. As an adjective it means 'adequate', 'acceptable' ("this is okay to send out"), 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"), agreement ("Okay, that's good"), a wish to defuse a situation or calm someone ("It's okay, it's not that bad"). As a grammatical particle it does not modify any other particular word, but rather reinforces the general point being made, particularly if that point is being called into question. And so, for example, a response to “So the accident kept him from going to the reunion?” might be “Oh, he went to it okay, but he had bruised ribs and his car was a wreck.” In this case “okay” does not modify him or his going anywhere; it is a particle emphasizing the point that is being questioned. As a noun and verb it means 'assent'; ("The boss okayed the purchase").The origins of 'okay' are not known with certainty, and have been the subject of much discussion over the years.

Earliest documented examples

The earliest claimed usage of okay is a 1790 court record from Sumner Countymarker, Tennesseemarker, discovered in 1859 by a Tennesseemarker historian named Albigence Waldo Putnam, in which Andrew Jackson apparently said:

"proved a bill of sale from Hugh McGary to Gasper Mansker, for a Negro man, which was O.K."

However, the record is hand-written rather than printed, and James Parton's 1860 biography of Jackson suggested that it is really a poorly written O.R., which was the abbreviation used for "Ordered Recorded". Woodford Heflin, the staff writer in charge of the "O.K." entry of the Dictionary of American English did a photographic analysis in 1941 which also supports the O.R. interpretation of the inscription.

What is widely regarded as the earliest known example of the modern "ok" being set down on paper is a quintessential "we arrived OK" notation in the hand-written diary of William Richardson going from Boston to New Orleans in 1815, about a month after the Battle of New Orleans. One entry says "we traveled on to N. York where we arrived all well, at 7 P.M." By most reckonings a later similar entry uses "ok" in place of "all well": "Arrived at Princeton, a handsome little village, 15 miles from N Brunswick, ok & at Trenton, where we dined at 1 P.M."The original "ok &" was edited to read "o.k. and" in the print publication and that rendering was widely accepted at the time. H.L. Mencken considered it "very clear that 'o. k.' is actually in the manuscript." The editor of American Speech noted that this use of "o.k." was "likely to become a locus classicus of the expression." H.L. Mencken later recanted his endorsement of the expression in favor on one espoused by those who say that "O.K." was used no earlier than 1839. Mencken said of the diary entry "This o k is really therefore the first two letters of a handsome.

Allen Walker Read identified the earliest known use of O.K. in print as 1839, in the March 23 edition of the Boston Morning Post (an American newspaper). The announcement of a trip by the Anti-Bell-Ringing Society (a "frolicsome group" according to Read) received attention from the Boston papers. Charles Gordon Greene wrote about the event using the line that is widely regarded as the first instance of this strain of okay, complete with gloss:

The above is from the Providence Journal, the editor of which is a little too quick on the trigger, on this occasion. We said not a word about our deputation passing "through the city" of Providence.—We said our brethren were going to New York in the Richmond, and they did go, as per Post of Thursday. The "Chairman of the Committee on Charity Lecture Bells", is one of the deputation, and perhaps if he should return to Boston, via Providence, he of the Journal, and his train-band, would have his "contribution box," et ceteras, o.k.—all correct—and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward.

This apparently resulted from a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s. The abbreviation in this case is from the misspelled "oll korrect."

Read gives a number of subsequent appearances in print: seven were accompanied ("glossed") with variations on "all correct" such as "oll korrect" or "ole kurreck"; five appeared with no accompanying explanation, suggesting that the word was expected to be well-known to readers and possibly in common colloquial use at the time.

A year later, supporters of the American Democratic political party claimed during the 1840 United States presidential election that it stood for "Old Kinderhook". "Kinderhook" was a nickname for a Democratic presidential candidate, Martin Van Buren, a native of Kinderhook, NYmarker. "'Vote for OK' was snappier than using his Dutch name." In response, Whig opponents attributed OK, in the sense of "Oll Korrect", to Andrew Jackson's bad spelling.

The country-wide publicity surrounding the election appears to have been a critical event in okay's history, widely and suddenly popularizing it across the United States.

James Pyle, inventor of "Pyle's Pearline" purchased by Procter & Gamble in 1914 and renamed "Ivory Snow", placed an ad in the New York Times, October 23, 1862 which refers to James Pyle's O.K. Soap. The New York Times obituary of James Pyle dated January 21, 1900 says "Brought O.K. Into Popularity". The obituary states "He was the first to utilize in advertisements the letters OK in their business significance of all correct. He had read the version of the origin of the use of these letters by Stonewall Jackson as an endorsement and was struck by their catchiness. By his extensive employment of them he probably did more than any other person to raise them to the dignity of a popular term and an established business institution."

However, and importantly for one candidate etymology, earlier documented examples exist of African slaves in America using phonetically identical or strikingly similar words in a similar sense to okay. (See Wolof: waw-kay, below.)


Various etymologies have been proposed for okay, but none has been unanimously agreed upon. Most are generally regarded to be unlikely or anachronistic.

There are five proposed etymologies which have received material academic support since the 1960s. They are:
  1. Greek words "Ola Kala" meaning "everything's good" or "all good" used by Greek railroad workers in the United States. It is possible that Greek sailors used Ola Kala in American ports. It is also said that "O.K." was written on the ships or other places to show that the ships are ready.
  2. Initials of the "comically misspelled" oll korrect
  3. Initials of "Old Kinderhook"
  4. Choctaw word okeh
  5. Wolof and Bantu word waw-kay or the Mande (aka "Mandinke" or "Mandingo") phrase o ke

The "comically misspelled" one has been extensively discussed by Allen Walker Read although the purpose of those discussions was to promote "Old Kinderhook"; the last two differ materially from other candidates in that they:
  • Have widespread verifiable pre-existing documented usage,
  • Have verifiable geographic overlaps with okay's first documented instances,
  • Have equivalent meanings,
  • Do not fit over-neatly into contemporaneous or subsequent political or cultural circumstances, and
  • Are remarkably similar in pronunciation to okay (having due regard to the danger of false coincidence, which is endemic to colloquial etymology)

Oll korrect

This is historically the most interesting etymology, based on Read's extensive discussion of it, and it became widely known following his landmark publications in 1963-1964.

Allen Walker Read, revisiting and refuting his own work of 20 years earlier, contributed a major survey of the early history of okay in a series of six articles in the journal American Speech in 1963 and 1964. He tracked the spread and evolution of the word in American newspapers and other written documents, and later the rest of the world. He also documented controversy surrounding okay and the history of its folk etymologies, both of which are intertwined with the history of the word itself.

A key observation is that, at the time of its first appearance in print, a broader fad existed in the United States of "comical misspellings" and of forming and employing acronyms and initialisms. These were apparently based on direct phonetic representation of (some) people's colloquial speech patterns. Examples at the time included K.Y. for "know yuse" and N.C. for "'nuff ced".

"The abbreviation fad began in Boston in the summer of 1838 ... OFM, "our first men," and used expressions like NG, "no go," GT, "gone to Texas," and SP, "small potatoes." Many of the abbreviated expressions were exaggerated misspellings, a stock in trade of the humorists of the day. One predecessor of okay was OW, "oll wright," and there was also KY, "know yuse," KG, "know go," and NS, "nuff said."

The general fad may have existed in spoken or informal written U.S. English for a decade or more before its appearance in newspapers. OK's original presentation as "all correct" was later varied with spellings such as "Oll Korrect" or even "Ole Kurreck". Deliberate word play was associated with the acronym fad and was a yet broader contemporary American fad.

The chief strength of this etymology is its clear written record.

A problem with this etymology is the implication that common usage was driven by the written appearance of a geographically and socially isolated slang term that was alien to the rest of the country. While appearing in written form often spreads and expands the usage of colloquial terms, it is rare for a single instance of written speech to make a term colloquial. The relatively slow take-up of the term by other English-speaking countries illustrates this pattern.

Another problem with this etymology is that the "comical misspellings" were phonetic. "Oll Korrect" (sometimes "orl korrect") clearly suggests that what is being comically misspelled was heard from someone speaking with a non-standard accent, either deliberately or habitually. The semantic similarity between "oll korrect" and the German (Pennsylvanian Dutch) "alles in Ordnung" ("everything is in order/all is correct") should be noted. However, at that time this accent was not widespread in the United States outside the north-east, which would have tended to reduce the rate of wider adoption of the now-arbitrary slang.

Old Kinderhook

Read's series of papers offered an interesting and memorable discussion of "Oll Korrect", but the purpose of those papers was to support his New York City based "Old Kinderhook" etymology referring to Martin Van Buren's residence in Kinderhook, New York. Read had formulated that etymology about twenty years earlier, but it had come under fire.

Van Buren was not by any means known as "Old Kinderhook" in general usage, and Read offered only two instances of the use of "O.K." that mentioned "Old Kinderhook." One was an 1840 ad for a breast pin celebrating Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. The other was a facetious use as part of a gag to take a swipe at the Whigs; indeed, to take the use of the abbreviations in that gag seriously is to miss the whole point. Many linguists, including the editors of The Dictionary of American English and the Oxford English Dictionary found these uses no more significant than any of other uses of "O.K." over the previous year and a half. They considered its use in the lapel pin ad an "afterthought" dropped into an ad that was essentially a celebration of Jackson and the frontier associations of the expression.

Read countered, however, that the ad made it evident "that the expression was strange and new at that time", that the earlier uses of "O.K." in Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, New Orleans, New York, etc. – including the humorous uses of "Oll Korrect" – were "not the real thing, but anticipative of the real thing." He said that, regardless of the surface meaning of those earlier uses, their true, although secret and cabalist reference, was to Van Buren's residence, and that "Old Kinderhook" established the trajectory of "O.K." as it "rocketed across the American linguistic sky."

Read's etymology gained immediate acceptance.

It was and is offered without reservation in dictionaries. The 1968 edition of Webster's Dictionary, for example, offered a gross misrepresentation of the documented early uses of the expression for months before it was ever used in New York:"first used in name of the Democratic O.K. club (earliest recorded meeting March 24, 1840), in which O.K. is abbrev. of Old Kinderhook.

Modern dictionaries almost invariably offer an etymology that mentions the interesting historical use of "Oll Korrect" and states something to the effect that modern use of "O.K." is a product of "Old Kinderhook".

The strength of this etymology is Read's marquee-name authority. Dictionary entries typically base their etymologies on a prominent endorsement of him. One website offers this comment on any etymology other than Read's: "Baloney. The etymology of OK was masterfully explained by the distinguished Columbia University professor Allen Walker Read." It further says that '[i]f Professor Read says OK = oll korrect, that's good enough for me."

A weakness of this etymology is that neither Read nor anyone else has documented any use of the expression after the humorous acronym craze of 1840 that has even the vaguest reference to Martin Van Buren's birthplace.

Choctaw: okeh

Another proposed induction of okay involves English-speaking Americans taking up a locally-heard Native American word.

The emergence of the expression "OK" coincided with a seminal period in the development of American popular culture.

The War of 1812 and the appearance on the American scene of the frontiersman — both in the flesh and as a national symbol — mark the beginning of an indigenous psyche Americana which is strikingly reflected in the flood of Americanisms originating in the nineteenth century.
The lingua franca across much of this frontier was a pidgin version of Choctaw, often referred to as Mobilian trade language. The 1809 report of the Lewis and Clark Expedition stated flatly that Mobilian was "spoken by all the Indians from the east side of the Mississippi."

The Choctaw language and culture did indeed play a disproportionately significant part in trade, military, and religious affairs across the young country south of the Ohio River. An 1836 scholarly paper explained that the structures, modes, and inflexions of Choctaw made it easiest to use in some form by Europeans, and it therefore became for them "a general medium of intercourse with all the other adjacent Indian tribes."

The study was largely based on an 1825 spelling book which used the particle -oke or -hoke to end over a quarter of the sentences, but never included it in any word lists or discussions. It was as if the assumption was that the reader needed no explanation about how to use the expression. Later editions of the Spelling Book state that "o" is to be pronounced as the "o" in "note," and "e" is to be pronounced as the "a" in "made." The 1836 paper discussed sia hoke as the declaration or exclamation of personal affirmation found in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14): I am that I am.

Given the widespread popular assumption that Choctaw was more or less the Indian language, it is understandable if some variant of hoke became widely regarded as the Indian interjection of affirmation or, indeed, war cry. In 1839 the respected Algonquian scholar Henry Schoolcraft wrote of an Ottawa use of "Hoke ! Hoke !" and offered a very questionable etymology mentioning various Algonquian tribes' use of the interjection "to imply approbation and assent." A variant of hoke or sia hoke is part of the apocryphal stories about Choctaw use of si hoka to celebrate victory to Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

Although the details of these apocryphal stories might be questionable, it is virtually inconceivable that Jackson could interact with Choctaws for years, adopt a Choctaw boy and yet not use the "okeh" or "oke" expression. Andrew Jackson and his Tennessee Volunteers certainly heard the word frequently from the Choctaws while fighting side by side with them in the Pensacola Campaign of the War of 1812. There are at least two recorded conversations between Jackson and the Choctaw Chief Pushmataha in which Pushmataha uses the Choctaw word in speaking to Jackson. It is plausible that Jackson learned the expression from the Choctaws, and then introduced it to Washington D.C. when he became President.

It might be noted that practice of referring to the expression with the assumption the reader needs no explanation of it is common in the usage of "O.K." An 1840 ad for a Jackson Breast Pin with the "frightful letters O.K." celebrating "the hero of New Orleans" did not bother to explain relationship between "O.K." and the Battle of New Orleans or why the letters "O.K" were frightful – that is, that they represented a war cry of savages. The ad indicates that such information was widely and popularly known enough at the time to justify the manufacture and sale of a lapel pin celebrating it.

At about the same time, the "O.K. Boys", a group "said to number 1,000 'bravos'" was established in New York City. They borrowed "O.K." as their name and war cry ("flat burglary" according to one wag), and as standard bearers for the New York Wigwam of the Tammanies, they beat drums, shouted "O.K." and held pow-wows. (Bravos is short for indios bravos — "wild Indians" or "Indian braves.") Tammany Hall was often referred to as the Great Wigwam. Press coverage of the "O.K. Boys" apparently did not include any explanation of source of their name.

The Arrow shirt company marketed an Okeh collar for a while with the slogan "all that its name implies". The advertisers felt no need to explain to the public what it was the name implied.

At any rate, there were more than 90,000 copies of books printed in or about the Choctaw language before 1840 by religious interests alone. It might be assumed the early Choctaw publications were based on an appreciation for the Choctaw language or culture. Quite the contrary, the purpose of them was to remove that language and culture from American society or, as the editor put it in his introduction to an 1870 Grammar of the Choctaw Language, extinguishing the Choctaws' "evil habits" and "redeeming the nation from drunkenness, ignorance and immorality to sobriety, godliness, and civilization."

The Grammar treated the expression okeh in some detail, saying it was often used as an "affirmative contradistinctive" particle meaning "it is so and not otherwise" to emphasize a point being made. The English use of the particle "O.K." as discussed earlier is very atypical of English syntax which usually uses modifiers rather than particles, but it is very typical of Choctaw.

The Grammar also discussed various uses of oke or ok ! used as an interjection "to excite the attention of the party addressed": This interjection is also used with a variety of intonations to express other emotions as well, from joy to lamentation, just as in English, where, depending on the tone of voice, "okay" might be used to express anything from joyful exuberance to grim capitulation and defeat.

The Grammar was reprinted the next year by the American Philosophical Society, and the Choctaw etymology endorsed by historians in scholarly journals. In 1877 the Congrès International des Americanistes in Luxembourg offered presentations in German about the Chakta-Indianer expression okeh and in French about Le Chacta particule Okeh. By 1879 "ok eh?" was being used as an interjection in Dutch popular literature.

When English language dictionaries began including "O.K." in the early 1900s, they brought the Choctaw etymology to the general public:
O.K. [A humorous or ignorant spelling of what should be *okeh, (...Choctaw (Chakta) okeh, an 'article pronoun,' a kind of adjunct, meaning 'it is so,' having in the 'predicative form' a 'distinctive and final' use, ' okeh, it so and in no other way'; also interjectionally, yai okeh, thanks to you' Byington, Grammar of the Choctaw Lang., p. 55); a use that may be compared with that of the Hebrew and European amen.] All right; correct: now commonly used as an indorsement, as on a bill.

The publication in 1915 of A dictionary of the Choctaw language renewed interest in Choctaw loan words. Woodrow Wilson was a highly respected historian and author of, among other works, the five volume A History of the American People before he became President. He always used that Choctaw "okeh" in place of "O.K." and referred people who questioned his practice to Century Dictionary which cited the Choctaw etymology from the 1870 Grammar.

Wilson's "pedantic" use of "okeh" has been derided but it was widely viewed as creating something of an "okeh" vogue beginning about 1918.The expression was used in various federal and state records. A 1930 volume of Proceedings of Michigan Natural Resources Commission apparently used "Okeh" to okay items of business.

Much of the time the "okeh" or "oke" spelling was used, as might be expected, in colloquial contexts. But not all the uses were folksy or colloquial by any means. They were used in such respected mainstream or literary publications as Popular Science, The American Mercury,Scribner's magazine,the Catholic Digest,and The Rotarian.

1918 development in the etymology of "O.K." was the creation of the Okeh record label. The announcement of that event said "This name is derived from the original Indian spelling of the term colloquially known as O.K., standing for 'all right.'" The record label originally had an Indian head in the logo.

Another explicit use the the Choctaw etymology dealt with the British condiment, Mason's OK sauce. In 1885 George Mason & Co. was specializing in beef broths and lozenges for invalids. In 1911 they added "O.K. sauce" to their line. They promoted it based on "the Choctaw Oke or Hoke, meaning it is so." The "O.K." name became such a hit that by 1929 they were also advertising "O.K." Pickles," and "O.K." Chutney. The British linguist Eric Partridge somewhat sheepishly confessed that he, like "the general public in England," used the expression as a loanword from Choctaw until he encountered Read's etymology and learned that any use of the expression other than to refer to Martin Van Buren was erroneous.

"Oke" was a popular spelling for the expression in England and brought back to the United States where, since it was presumedly pronounced with a "long e" sound, it gave rise to the expression "okie doke."

When Read wrote his series of papers defending "Old Kinderhook" a major challenge he faced was the impugning of the accepted Choctaw etymology. His "Folklore" paper noted the widespread inclusion of the Choctaw etymology in dictionaries — in over two dozen editions of Merriam-Webster alone, for example, beginning in 1909: "Prob. fr. Choctaw okeh is is so and not otherwise." The papers also reviewed explicit, intentional instances of the expression being used as a Choctaw or at least Native loan word and cited several endorsements of the Choctaw etymology by nationally prominent scholars. The purpose behind Read's extraordinary encyclopedic study, however, was the same purpose as the missionaries' study of Choctaw a century earlier, that is, to eliminate it.

He offered no scholarly refutation of this material but merely ridiculed it and dismissed it out of hand as the work of eccentric, emotional Indian lovers, a disparagement he expanded upon in a footnote. At one point, when he was asked to reply to etymologies other than his own, he took a position of "icy disdain" and said that was the only valid position to hold regarding "a collection of old wives' tails." However, dismissing out of hand the Choctaw left a big hole in Read's etymology: "'Old Kinderhook' is structurally needed to explain why the Tammany politicians chose O.K. as the name of the club of rowdies and the slogan to spark their cheering and rioting."

It is a measure of the esteem in which Read was held and the power that he wielded that his antipathy for the Choctaw immediately came to be accepted. The 1815 Richardson's diary entry, far from being the locus classicus of the etymology of "O.K.," virtually disappeared from the discussion. The fundamental principle of much of that discussion is that there is no evidence for the Choctaw etymology and that any intentional use of the expression with reference to Native language or culture or any use of a Choctaw loadword is "erroneous."

If mention is made of the Choctaw at all in dictionary entries today it is probably disparaging. For example, The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang has four separate entries for "O.K." and says that "okeh" is the obsolete equivalent of each of them. It also says that "okeh," ('it is indeed') is a Choctaw expression. But it nevertheless says that "[w]ithout concrete evidence of a prior and established English borrowing from Choctaw-Chickasaw" any "derivational claims" about a Choctaw etymology are as "gratuitous" as those of the Liberian Djabo "O-ke," the Mandingo "O ke," or the Ulster Scots "Ough, aye!"

The icy disdain or annoyance when "some wounded scholar raises a plaintive cry in favor of okeh" sets the tone for much of the discussion.

Despite efforts to exclude the Choctaw etymology from any discussion, the Choctaw expression "okeh" is still occasionally used, sometimes in rather unexpected contexts The "O.K. sauce" bottle mystique is alive and well on the Internet; a Google search of "Masons OK sauce" yields over 50,000 ebay hits. And there are hundreds of options for downloading lyrics, soundtracks, videos, tweets, ringtones, etc. of the song "All Mixed Up" written by Pete Seeger and recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1964.
You know this language that we speak,

is part German, Latin and part Greek

Celtic and Arabic all in a heap,

well amended by the people in the street.

Choctaw gave us the word "okay"…

A strength of this etymology of "O.K." is a repeated explicit, intentional reference to the Choctaw associated with its use as well as the use of Choctaw loanwords, in particular okeh. Moreover, modern use of the expression validates observations repeatedly made since 1836. English use of the expression employs the same phonology and semantics as the Choctaw, and the syntax and inflections are often very atypical of English but very typical of Choctaw particles and interjections.

Wolof: waw-kay

Documented instances exist well before 1839 of African slaves in America being quoted phonetically using words strikingly similar to the now common usage and meaning of okay. For example, in 1784:

"Kay, massa, you just leave me, me sit here, great fish jump up into da canoe, here he be, massa, fine fish, massa; me den very grad; den me sit very still, until another great fish jump into de canoe;..."

And a Jamaican planter's diary of 1816 records a "Negro" as saying:

"Oh ki, massa, doctor no need be fright, we no want to hurt him."

In particular, Wolof is a West African language which has had an unusually strong influence upon (once) colloquial English, with (not so ) well documented examples such as banana, jive, dig (it), yam, and sock (someone), along with the contested hip or hip cat. Importantly, a key study claims Wolof to be an important lingua franca among American slaves.

"Waaw" means "yes" and the suffix "-kay" or "-kai" adds emphasis. A simplistic word-for-word translation of Wolof's "wawkay" is "yes [emphatically]" or "yes, indeed"; but better usage translations would be "I agree", "I'll comply", "that's good", "that's right", or "all correct". The consonance of this last translation with the first documented usage of okay could be significant, or could be coincidence. However, okay's colloquial rather than formal usage strongly coincides with other Wolof words which have migrated documentedly into the American version of the English language, and its earliest documented usage is explicitly colloquial, not to say jocular. Significantly, the emergence of okay in white Americans' vocabulary dates from a period when many refugees from Southern slavery were arriving in the North of the United States, where the word was first documented.

A strength of this etymology is its consonance with Read's own documented evidence of the craze for "comical misspellings". These typically took the form of phonetic transcriptions of locally heard accents. For example, the German-accented (Pennsylvanian Dutch-accented) "Vell, vot ov it?" Many refugees from Southern slavery were arriving in the North of the United States at the time of okay's first written appearance and it is likely that Boston residents would have come in contact with Africans using Wolof terms and could well have had wawkay translated for them as "all correct".

The underlying theme here is English-speaking Americans taking up a locally-heard African word.

Spelling variations

Whether this word is printed as OK, okay, or O.K. is a matter normally resolved in the style manual for the publication involved. Dictionaries and style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage provide no consensus.

Variation Where used/Origins Ref
okeh An alternative English spelling, no longer common
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. Commonly attributed to have originated from actor/writer Sean Neil Connell.
'mkay, m'kay, or mkay In use long before, but popularized by Mr. Van Driessen in Beavis and Butt-head and Mr. Mackey in South Park
Okey kokkey Used frequently by Giovanni Capello from Mind Your Language
Okie dokie Popularly known at least by the 1930s in "The Little Raskles" (Oki doki) and later popularized further as the catch phrase of The Simpsons character Ned Flanders (Oka-lee doka-lee). The phrase can be extended further, e.g. "Okie dokie (ala) pokie / smokie / artichokie," etc..
okej Used in Poland, although 'ok' is more common in written language; sometimes 'oki' is used in speech
ôkê Used in Vietnam, "okey" is also used, although 'ok' is more common
Okei Sometimes used in Norwegian, Finnish and Latvian. Quite often in Estonian.
Okej Used in Swedish and sometimes Latvian. "ok" is also used, but is less common.
Oké Used in Hungarian ok, okés, okézsoké is also commonly used
Okee or Oké Used in Dutch. "ok" and "okay" are also used, but are less common in the formal written language.
Ouwkee Phonetic translation in Dutch, used in informal written language in the Flemish region of Belgiummarker
Okey Especially in Latin American (Spanish) and Turkish.
Ookoo Used in Finlandmarker. It is pronounced the same way as "OK", but it's spelled like the pronunciation of the letters.
Theek Hai Used in Hindi and other North Indian languages of India and neighbouring countries. OK is also used, both in English as well as regional languages.
Oukej Used in Czech. Oukej is pronounced as English OK. Czech also recognises "OK", but the pronunciation of OK is [o:ka:]. Neither version is recognized in the official language.
Oquei Phonetic translation to Latin American Spanish.


Okay can mean "all right" or "satisfactory". For example, "I hope the children are okay" means "I hope the children are all right"; "I think I did OK in the exam" means "I think I did well, but not perfect, on the exam"; and "He is okay" means "He is good", or "He is well", depending on context.

Depending on context and inflection, okay can also imply mediocrity. For example: "The concert was just okay."

Okay is sometimes used merely to acknowledge a question without giving an affirmation. For example: "You're going to give back the money that you stole, right?" "Okay."

Saying okay in a sarcastic tone or questioning tone can indicate that the person one is talking to is considered crazy and/or exacerbatingly stubborn in their view. "I really saw a UFO last night!" "Okay..."

Okay! can also be used as an exclamation in place of words like "enough!" or "stop!"

Okay can be a noun or verb meaning approval. "Did you get the supervisor's okay?" "The boss okayed the proposal."

International usage

Okay has become an essentially global term, used today in most languages and most cultures around the world.

It is not uncommon amongst English speakers and is used almost everywhere.

In Europe the word is widespread and well-recognized. In Swedish, it is spelled "okej".

In Brazil and Mexico, as well as in other Latin American countries, the word is pronounced just as it is in English and is used very frequently. Although pronouncing it the same, Spanish speakers often spell the word "okey" to conform with the pronunciation rules of the language. In Brazil, it may be also pronounced as "ô-kei". In Portugal, it is used with its Portuguese pronunciation and sounds something like "ókâi".

Arabic speakers also use the word (أوكي) widely, particularly in areas of former British occupation like Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Iraqmarker, and Palestine but also all over the Arab world due to the prevalence of American cinema and television. It is pronounced just as it is in English but is very rarely seen in Arabic newspapers and formal media.

In Israel, the word okay is common as an equivalent to the Hebrew words בסדר [b'seder] ('in order') and טוב [tov] ('good'). It is written as it sounds in English אוקיי.

It is used in Japan and Korea in a somewhat restricted sense, fairly equivalent to "all right". Okay is often used in colloquial Japanese as a replacement for 大丈夫 (daijōbu "all right") or いい (ii "good") and often followed by です (desu — the copula).

In Chinese, the term "好" (hǎo; literally: "good"), can be modified to fit most of usages of okay. For example, "好了" (hao le) closely resembles the interjection usage of okay. The "了" indicates a change of state, in this case it indicates the achievement of consensus. Likewise, "OK" is commonly transformed into "OK了" (OK le) when communicating with foreigners or with fellow Cantonese speaking people in at least Hong Kong and possibly to an extent, other regions of China.. Other usages of Okay such as "I am okay" can be translated as "我还好". In Hong Kong, movies or dramas set in modern times use the term "ok" as part of the sprinkling of English included in otherwise Cantonese dialog. In Mandarin, it is also, somewhat humorously, used in the "spelling" of the word for karaoke, "卡拉OK", pronounced "kah-lah-oh-kei" (Mandarin does not natively have a syllable with the pronunciation "kei"). On the computer, okay is usually translated as "确定", which means "confirm" or "confirmed".

In Taiwan, it is frequently used in various sentences, popular among but not limited to younger generations. This includes the aforementioned "OK了" (Okay le), "OK嗎" (Okay ma), meaning "Is it okay?" or "OK啦" (Okay la), a strong, persuading affirmative, as well as the somewhat tongue-in-cheek explicit yes/no construction "O不OK?" (O bu Okay), "Is it okay or not?".

In the Philippines "okay lang" is a common expression, literally meaning "just okay" or "just fine". They also use it in sms but with the letter "k" only which means okay also.

In Malay, it is frequently used with the emphatic suffix "lah": OK-lah.

In Vietnamese, it is spelled "Ô kê"

In India it is often used after a scentence to mean "did you get it" often not regarded politely, e.g. "i want this job done. okay" or at the end of a conversation(mostly on phone) preceeded with bye as "okay, bye"


In the United States and most of Europe a related gesture is made by touching the index finger with the thumb (forming a rough circle) and raising of the remaining fingers (to form a 'K'). Similar gestures have other meanings in other cultures.


A typical modal dialog box with prominent OK button

OK is used to label buttons in modal dialog boxes such as error messages or print dialogs, indicating that the user must press the button to accept the contents of the dialog box and continue. It is often placed next to a Cancel button which allows the user to dismiss the dialog box without accepting its contents. When a modal dialog box contains only one button, it is almost always labeled "OK" by convention and default. In this usage, it is usually rendered to the screen in upper case without punctuation: OK, rather than O.K., Okay, or Ok. The OK button can probably be traced to user interface research done for the Apple Lisa. However, modern user interface guidelines prefer to avoid modal dialog boxes if possible, and use more specific verbs, such as Continue, to label their action buttons instead of the generic OK.

PLATO normally responded to user input with ok or no.

On the Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer (1980), there was an "OK> prompt", which indicated that the Color Computer was ready to accept commands. This is also used in the OLPC XO-1 laptop OpenFirmware BIOS.

Many PCs from the 1990s performed a memory check during start-up. A counter showed the verified memory during the operation, sometimes suffixed with OK.

During the boot sequence of several Linux distributions, after attempting to start each service the result is shown as [ OK ] or [FAIL] as appropriate.

In HTTP, the HyperText Transfer Protocol, upon which the World Wide Web is based, a successful response from the server is defined as OK (with the numerical code 200 as specified in RFC 2616). The Session Initiation Protocol also defines a response, 200 OK, which conveys success for most requests (RFC 3261).

Some programming language interpreters such as BASIC and Forth print ok when ready to accept input from the keyboard.

See also



  • Beath, Paul R. (1946). 'O.K.' in radio sign language. American Speech, 21 (3), 235.
  • Cassidy, Frederic G. (1981). OK — is it African?. American Speech, 58 (4), 269-273.
  • Dalby, David. (1971, January 8). O.K., A.O.K. and O KE. New York Times, pp. L-31/4-6.
  • Degges, Mary. (1975). The etymology of OK again. American Speech, 50 (3/4), 334-335.
  • Eubanks, Ralph T. (1960). The basic derivation of 'O.K.' American Speech, 35 (3), 188-192.
  • Greco, Frank A. (1975). The etymology of OK again. American Speech, 50 (3/4), 333-334.
  • Heflin, Woodford A. (1941). 'O.K.,' but what do we know about it?. American Speech, 16 (2), 87-95.
  • Heflin, Woodford A. (1962). 'O.K.' and its incorrect etymology. American Speech, 37 (4), 243-248.
  • Levin, Harry; & Gray, Deborah. (1983). The Lecturer's OK. American Speech, 58 (3), 195-200.
  • Matthews, Albert. (1941). A note on 'O.K.'. American Speech, 16 (4), 256-259.
  • Mencken, H. L. (1936). The American language (4th ed., pp. 206–207). New York: Knopf.
  • Mencken, H. L. (1942). 'O.K.,' 1840. American Speech, 17 (2), 126-127.
  • Mencken, H. L. (1945). The American language: Supplement I (pp. 269–279). New York: Knopf.
  • Mencken, H. L. (1949, October 1). The life and times of O.K. New Yorker, pp. 57–61.
  • McMillan, James B. (1942). 'O.K.,' a comment. American Speech, 17 (2), 127.
  • Pound, Louise. (1942). Some folk-locutions. American Speech, 17 (4), 247-250.
  • Pound, Louise. (1951). Two queries: Usages of O.K. American Speech, 26 (3), 223.
  • Pyles, Thomas. (1952). 'Choctaw' okeh again: A note. American Speech, 27 (2), 157-158.
  • Read, Allen W. (1941, July 19). The evidence on O.K.. Saturday Review of Literaure, pp. 3–4, 10-11.
  • Rife, J. M. (1966). The early spread of "O.K." to Greek schools. American Speech, 41 (3), 238.
  • Wait, William B. (1941). Richardson's 'O.K.' of 1815. American Speech, 16 (2), 85-86, 136.
  • Walser, Richard. (1965). A Boston "O.K." poem in 1840. American Speech, 40 (2), 120-126.
  • Weber, Robert. (1942). A Greek O.K. American Speech, 17 (2), 127-128.
  • Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, Merriam-Webster, 1989.


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  4. Heflin, Woodford A. (1941) "'O. K.', But What Do We Know about It?". American Speech, 16 (2), 90.
  5. Wait, William Bell (1941) "Richardson's 'O. K.' of 1815". American Speech, 16 (2), 86-136.
  6. Mencken, H.L. (1956) The American language; an inquiry into the development of English in the United States. 275.
  7. The Economist, 2002.10.24, "Allen Read, obituary"
  8. Read, Allen W. (1963) The first stage in the history of "O.K.". American Speech, 38 (1), 5-27.
  9. Read, Allen W. (1963). The second stage in the history of "O.K.". American Speech, 38 (2), 83-102.
  10. Read, Allen W. (1963). Could Andrew Jackson spell?. American Speech, 38 (3), 188-195.
  11. Read, Allen W. (1964). The folklore of "O.K.". American Speech, 39 (1), 5-25.
  12. Read, Allen W. (1964). Later stages in the history of "O.K.". American Speech, 39 (2), 83-101.
  13. Read, Allen W. (1964). Successive revisions in the explanation of "O.K.". American Speech, 39 (4), 243-267.
  14. Cecil Adams, What does "OK" stand for?
  15. Read, A.W. (1941, July 19). "The Evidence on 'O.K.'," Saturday Review of Literature.
  16. Heflin, W.A. (1962). 'O.K.' and its incorrect etymology. American Speech, 37 (4).
  17. Read, "Successive Revisions," 257.
  18. Read, "Successive Revisions", 252, 254.
  19. Read, "Successive Revisions", 257.
  20. Read, "Second Stage", 102.
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  37. Byington, Cyrus, & Brinton, Daniel (ed.) (1870) Grammar of the Choctaw Language", 4.
  38. Byington & Brinton, Grammar, 14.
  39. Byington, Grammar, 55.
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  41. Congrès international des americanistes (1877) Compte-Rendu du Congrès international des americanistes
  42. Deel, Eerste, ed. (1879) De Gids, 486.
  43. Whitney, D.W. & Smith B.E., eds. (1911).The Century Dictionary: An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language, V, 4099.
  44. Byington, Cyrus, & Brinton, Daniel (ed.) (1915) A dictionary of the Choctaw language.
  45. Lawrence, David. (1924) true story of Woodrow Wilson, 1924.
  46. Metcalf, Alan. (2004) Predicting New Words: The Secrets of Their Success, 143.
  47. National Council of Teachers of English. (1965) Abstracts of English studies, 114.
  48. United States Securities and Exchange Commission, (1937) Report on the study and investigation of the work, activities, personnel and functions of protective and reorganization committees pursuant to section 211 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 90, 91.
  49. United States Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, (1957) Investigation of improper activities in the labor or management field, 960.
  50. California. Supreme Court, (1943) Reports of cases determined in the Supreme Court of the State of California, 845.
  51. Michigan Natural Resources Commission, (1930) Proceedings of Michigan Natural Resources Commission, 10 2810, 2811.
  52. Primghar, D.A. (1935, October) "O.K., Blame the Indians," Popular Science, 55.
  53. O.Mara, Patrick, (1931) "Afternoon of a Psychologist," The American Mercury, (23), 301, 302,
  54. Wright, Cuthbert, (1936) "The Noonday Demon," Scribner's magazine, (99), 204.
  55. Lord, Daniel A. (1943) "Okeh: Cracker-barrel philosophy," Catholic Digest, (8), 53, 54.
  56. McFee, William. (1946) If You Can Take It, The Rotarian, May 1947, 31.
  57. Tosches, Nick. (2002) Where Dead Voices Gather", 227.
  58. Read, "Folklore," 16.
  59. Partridge, Eric (1949) The world of words; an introduction to language in general and to English and American in particular, 174-175.
  60. Read, "Later Stages," 95.
  61. Read, "Folklore", 17.
  62. Read, "Folklore", 17.
  63. Read, "Successive Revisions," 258.
  64. Read, "Successive Revisions", 262.
  65. Lighter, Jonathon, (1994). The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, 708.
  66. Copperud, Roy (1960). [1]Words on paper; a manual of prose style for professional writers, reporters, authors, editors, publishers, and teachers., 237.
  67. Boice, Judith (2007) Menopause with Science and Soul: A Guidebook for Navigating the Journey, 52.
  68. Lerman, Philip (2007) Dadditude: How a Real Man Became a Real Dad, 238.
  69. Belmond, C. A. (2008) A Rather Curious Engagement, 38.
  70. J. F. D. Smyth. (1784) A Tour in the United States of America (London, 1784), 1:118-21
  71. David Dalby (Reader in West African Languages, SOAS, U of London). (1971) "The Etymology of O.K.", The Times, 14 January 1971
  72. see
  73. Joseph E. Holloway, The Impact of African Languages on American English—online repetition of several of Dalby's observations and conclusions
  74. The article by Dalby is an example of sloppy linguistics, but it is interesting to see it qualified as key study for it fits the desire to prove the Wolof origin of words.
  75. David Dalby (Reader in West African Languages, SOAS, U of London). (1969) The Times 1969.07.19. Also: "independent evidence of the importance of Wolof as a lingua franca among American slaves"
  76. this is not true, but should be left in to show how people want words to be Wolof
  77. Grammarphobia: I'm OK, you're okay
  78. Okeh as variant spelling of "okay"
  79. Moraitis, Nick. Cyberscene. Penguin Books Australia, Ltd.
  80. Connell, Sean. night flower.lulu publishing
  83. 3 mins and 37 secs
  84. Apple user interface designers pick OK
  85. Microsoft Windows Vista user interface guidelines for dialog box buttons

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