The Surprising Origin of the Word ‘Ok’

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It’s estimated that the word “OK” is used somewhere between two and three billion times every day. It’s a versatile word that can be used as an adjective, adverb, noun, verb, interjection, or even an imperative. It’s also one of the most recognized words in the world, second only to “hello.” Given how ubiquitous and commonplace the word is, it’s surprising to think about how relatively recently it came into use.

The word “OK” first appeared in print in 1839, in an article in the Boston Morning Post. The article was about a fad that was sweeping the country at the time known as “manifest destiny.” Manifest destiny was the idea that it was America’s destiny to expand across the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The article described how this expansion was “OK,” or “all right.”

The word “OK” became popular during the presidential election of 1840. The candidates, Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison, both used the word in their campaign speeches. Van Buren was trying to appeal to the common man, and he used the word “OK” to make himself seem more down-to-earth. Harrison, on the other hand, was trying to appeal to the more educated voter, and he used the word “OK” to show that he was up-to-date on the latest slang.

After the election, “OK” became even more popular. It started appearing in all sorts of places, from newspapers to novels to plays. It was even used in a song called “The Hunters of Kentucky,” which was a popular hunting song at the time.

The word “OK” continued to be used throughout the 19th century, but its popularity really took off in the 20th century. In the early 1900s, it became common to see “OK” used as a shorthand for “all correct” or “all right.” This usage was popularized by President Theodore Roosevelt, who was known for using the word “OK” frequently.

During World War II, the word “OK” became even more popular. It was used as a code word to mean “everything is going well” or “mission accomplished.” After the war, “OK” became a part of everyday speech, and it has been used ever since.

So where did the word “OK” come from? No one is really sure. Some people think it might be a shortened form of “oll korrect,” which was a popular misspelling of “all correct” at the time. Others think it might be a Native American word. But the most likely explanation is that it’s just a made-up word that caught on because it was easy to say and remember.

Whatever its origins, the word “OK” is now a part of our everyday lives. It’s a word that can be used to express approval, agreement, or just to signify that everything is going well. So the next time you use the word “OK,” remember that you’re using a word with a long and surprising history.

1 Comment

  1. I find it interesting that the word “OK” is so universally recognized and yet its origins are unclear. It’s a testament to the power of language that a made-up word can become so ingrained in our everyday speech.

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