The word OK is one of the most widely recognized words in the world today and is included in the everyday vocabulary of many languages. The word Okay, as defined by the Oxford dictionary as, “a term used to express agreement or acceptance.” In its modern usage, okay is a word that is recognized around the world along with its even more widely recognized acronym “OK”. But what is the origin of the word OK? What’s the etymology of a word like “okay”?
Etymology of the word OK
Compared to some other common words that are used by people every day, Ok linguistically is a relatively newly invented word. Rather than anyone purposefully inventing “OK,” the story behind its origin is literally a joke. It’s only 150 years old and traces its roots back to 19th century Boston. A time when it was trendy for writers to use playful abbreviations. OK first appeared as an abbreviation for “Oll Korrect” in a satirical piece on grammar that was published in the Boston Morning Post. The humorous article about a satirical organization called the “Anti-Bell Ringing Society ” wrote:
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.
OK started appearing more often in Boston Morning Post articles, and it very slowly seeped into the American vernacular during 1839. By the end of the year, it had shown up in the Boston Evening Transcript, New York Evening Tattler and the Philadelphia Gazette. For a word that started as a joke, instead of vanishing like its counterparts, it has stuck around and It’s amazing that we ever got along without it at all.
One of the main reasons it became more popularized is by its use as an election slogan by the O.K. Club, the New York boosters of Democratic president Martin Van Buren’s in his 1840 re-election bid. During the 1840 election, the term “oll korrect” OK merged with Martin van Buren’s nickname, Old Kinderhook, when some van Buren supporters formed the O.K. Club. After the club got into a few tussles with Harrison supporters, OK got mixed up with slandering and sloganeering. 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.
It is truly incredible that for a word that was invented by accident, it has become a word that almost everyone would use at least daily across the world.