What “OK” Stands For

Daven Hiskey 33
Today I found out what “OK” stands for, namely “oll korrect”.  So how does that make any sense at all?  I’m glad  you asked, because otherwise this article would have been way to short to publish. ;-)

The time was 1839.  In Boston and New York, slang abbreviations were all the rage with the abbreviations often representing deliberately misspelled slang phrases like “KY” for “know yuse”; “OW” for “oll wright” (the predecessor of “oll korrect”); “KG” for “know go”; “NS” for “nuff said”;  and many many others.

OK is one of the few of these abbreviations to survive.  It managed to do so largely because of an 1840 New York campaign slogan by boosters of Martin Van Buren for re-election.  Van Buren’s nickname was “Old Kinderhook”; so this group made their name the “O.K. Club”, thus having the double meaning of “oll korrect” and “Old Kinderhook”.  As you might expect, this also gave rise to Van Buren’s opponents quipping that Van Buren’s supporters were all illiterate.

If you liked this article and the Bonus Facts below, you might also enjoy:

Bonus Facts:

  • The phrase “Okey-doke” first showed up in 1932 and originally came about as the English spelled OK “okie”.  This was then brought back to America where Americans pronounced this version with a long e, giving rise to the rhyme.
  • Greek immigrants to America who ended up returning to Greece were called by the Greece “okay-boys”, due to the fact that they had picked up certain American speech mannerisms such as “OK”.
  • The verb form of OK originally showed up in 1919 being spelled out as “okeh”, being confused with the Choctaw word “okeh”, which means “it is so”.  In 1929 however, this spelling was replaced by okay, which has pretty much endured to this day.

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  1. Vossinakis Andreas April 15, 2010 at 3:57 am - Reply

    I know that OK derives from the words “Ola Kala” which means “All is good”, that was used from greek sailors and immigrants to mark all the shipment that was good to go

  2. jemoeder April 24, 2010 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Martin van Buuren used to sign documents with O.K. that’s where it came from.

  3. Sam April 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    […] […]

  4. Simon April 25, 2010 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    […] […]

  5. Dennis April 25, 2010 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    I know that OK derives from the words “Ola Kala” which means “All is good”, that was used from greek sailors and immigrants to mark all the shipment that was good to go

  6. kristyn May 4, 2010 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    i’m from kinderhook!

  7. Mike May 17, 2010 at 4:31 am - Reply

    It always used to be said that OK began in the french-speaking part of the Caribbean, and arose from the rum trade.

    Barrels of rum were inspected and any that were substandard were put aside for the use of the locals, but the best ones were chosen for export to France, so they would be sent to the docks, which in french is “au quai” (pronounced “aw kay”)

    Barrels thus selected were marked as such, as being suitable to send “au quai” (=to the docks) and O K was a very convenient abbreviation. (a bit like the way we use the figure 2 to mean “to” or the figure 4 to mean “for”)

  8. Mphone July 4, 2010 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Factoid doesn’t mean fact btw. Look it up. It means something that is presented as a fact but is in fact not.

  9. Meche September 22, 2010 at 9:28 am - Reply

    I’ve heard the Ola Kala version and also that soldiers would send a runner with the news of death toll and when none were killed in battle they wrote 0 Kill that turned to 0K and when there were no kills all was good so tis OK

  10. Leon December 21, 2010 at 8:08 am - Reply

    False, false, false. This article is wrong. They are talking about already using OK and giving it meaning. OK originates in revolutionary war. O.K. meant 0 killed.O is basically a zero and it means that all men returned without casulties at the end of the day. SO when someone said how was the day, they said istead of zero killed, they said O.K. and it survived and people used it without knowing what that means so they just guessed what it means and thats what your article is about.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven December 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      @Leon: And your sources for this are?

  11. Dude January 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    I always assumed that OK came from Russian. Oche Kereshaw (very good). It makes so much more sense to me.

  12. skryth February 20, 2011 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    I always thought it stood for…y’know…okay…>.>

  13. Akhlaq Khattak June 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    Dear I have heard from someone that ok stand for objection killer..

  14. usman September 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    ok stand for objection killed

  15. Bob Jonz March 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    I believe Mike is correct in its derivation from the french, but I think it was yelled in the harbors to give the all clear as well, not just barrel designation. The french were saying it before the revolutionary war. there’s gotta be a good reference source for root word entymology somewhere…

  16. Ryan June 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    OW for oll wright? it’s longer to say the abbreviation!

  17. Troy June 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    I had heard it meant On Keel. The ship is on keel and that means the direction and status of the ship is where it supposed to be. Supposedly hundreds of years old, but I wasn’t there, so who knows…

  18. dfughewuyf June 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    it stands 4 okay…..duh

  19. sharif ullah July 11, 2012 at 8:34 am - Reply


  20. Dr Graham August 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Olla Kala originates from Greek sailors and it was understood in all major ports worldwide around the Byzantine times as plenty of scripts reveal, this era dates even before the roman empire times. Someone who studied Byzantine history can verify you this.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey August 30, 2012 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      @Dr Graham: I’d love to see the sources on this one.

  21. Eric October 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm - Reply
  22. George March 7, 2013 at 2:45 am - Reply

    @Vossinakis Andreas
    Ola Kala (Greek: Όλα Καλά;) means “All Good”. where did you see the “is” in it?

    So let’s see…
    1. Correctly spelled “Όλα Καλά” is a perfect match for OK!
    2. Miss-spelled “oll korrect” again is a perfect match for OK!

    Which one is the most probable origin of “OK”?
    My guess is both, and that this coincidence made “OK”stick!

    @ Dr Graham
    I’ve heard this too, but again I think the coincidence, the fact that it was used and made sense in more than one languages is what made it survive through the years.

  23. shahzaib ALi March 15, 2013 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    Ok means Objection Killed first time hitler spoke this word.As my teacher told me.

  24. genius.ok November 1, 2013 at 9:55 am - Reply

    wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong
    it is my resrched that o.k means objection killed
    i.e. there is no more objection for any further talk
    that is ok ;)

  25. ahmad furqan November 30, 2013 at 9:09 am - Reply

    objection killed stand for ok

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