The origins of the word ‘OK’

There are many thoughts as to the origin of the word OK. It is likely to have had African origins. The first written use of the word OK was in Tennessee, America, in 1790. An Andrew Jackson wrote: "Proved a bill of sale from Hugh McGary to Gasper Mansker, for a Negro man, which was O.K.” However, in the American Choctaw Indian language, there is a word okeh, which means "it is so". It is likely this word was used in some American communities in the early 19th century.

In 1815, a William Richardson who had travelled from New Orleans wrote in his diary: ‘We travelled to NY we arrived OK.’ The Boston Morning Post is credited with introducing the word ‘OK’ (all correct) on 23rd March 1839 in the midst of a long paragraph. In 1840, one presidential candidate Martin van Buren was nicknamed ‘Old Kinderhook’ (OK), as he was a native from Kinderhook, NY. During the 1830s & 1840s comical abbreviations flourished in the American press, thus helping spread the word. In the 1860s, British people were taught not to use this ‘American word’, as one wouldn’t be speaking ‘correct’ English.

Category: USA / Origin of Words / OK