The humble ‘OK’ (or however you spell it) gets its chance to shine on OK Day, a global event celebrated on March 23 each year. The day is all about recognizing the worth of this evergreen noun/verb/adjective/adverb/interjection, which is so popular, that it transcended the language barrier a long time ago. It’s not uncommon to hear a French, Korean, or any other non-English speaking person casually slip in an ‘okay’ while speaking in their native tongue. On this day, the world is paying homage to what is possibly its most-used word.
History of OK Day
We can’t say for sure when this word originated. A number of historians believe ‘okay’ became a part of the English language largely due to an editing prank, while there are some who think it might have come from a clever political campaign slogan. There are also doubts that similar words from languages like French, Haitian, Spanish, and even the Native American ‘Choctaw’ were the inspiration behind this word.
What we do know is that this word first appeared in print when an enterprising editor from the Boston Morning Post took a satirical jab at his counterpart. He deliberately created a funny misspelling of ‘all correct’ — ‘oll korrect’ — to form the abbreviation ‘O.K.’ And then, this slang word was suddenly a part of the American language, although it hadn’t quite reached uber-popular status yet.
The reason so many people mistakenly believe ‘OK’ was the result of a political slogan comes now, at this time in history. The 1840 presidential candidate Martin Van Buren used a slogan, ‘Vote for OK,’ which gave this world a brighter stage to shine on. The ‘OK’ used here, however, was actually Van Buren’s nickname ‘Old Kinderhook,’ which referred to his hometown of Kinderhook, New York. His opponents in this race – the Whigs – took this a step further, slandering Van Buren’s mentor, Andrew Jackson, claiming that he used ‘OK’ instead of ‘all correct’ because he couldn’t spell. They also alleged he signed documents this way for the same reason. These untrue accusations tanked Van Buren’s reelection campaign but worked wonders for the popularity of the word itself. Over the next few decades, documents were signed with an ‘OK’ to indicate they were correct, and even telegrams contained this slang word, even as many prominent writers spurned its usage. But the rise of this word could not be stopped, and it eventually gained global recognition.
American etymologist Allen Walker Read was just as fascinated by this word as the rest of the world and researched all the stories behind its origin. He landed on the 1839 Boston Morning Post article as the birthplace of ‘OK.’ He unveiled his findings over a series of articles released between 1963 and 1964. While people still hotly debate these findings, one thing we can all agree on — OK is here to stay, and we are absolutely okay with that.
OK Day timeline
Louisa May Alcott's “Little Women” includes the word 'okay'; it is replaced by 'cozy' in the 1880 edition.
NASA's usage of an 'okay' variant – A-OK – during their first manned space flight helps to popularize this word.
School counselor Mr. Mackey, from “South Park,” famously ends most of his statements with a 'm'kay,' which he's using in place of 'okay'.
Professor Allen Metcalf authors “OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word” based on Allen Walker Read's research and suggests the world should celebrate this word; the first OK Day is held on this day to honor the first time 'okay' appeared in print.
OK Day FAQs
Which is correct — okay or OK?
Both are right, and there is no difference between their usage. They both appear as standard English versions, although certain official style guides require people to use one variation over the other.
Is ‘okay’ informal?
‘Okay’ and all its variations are mostly preferred only in informal writing and was once considered a slang term.
What do you mean by ‘okay?’
‘Okay’ can denote anything from acceptance to assent, to approval, to acknowledgment, and even as a sign of indifference, depending on its usage.
OK Day Activities
Take a quick vocabulary check
If you hadn't noted just how many times you're using 'okay,' now's your chance. Take some time to monitor your usage of this word, the context you use it in, and what are the circumstances you use it in. We think this is a great way to honor the word and measure your patterns of speaking at the same time.
Play a little game
While we admittedly use this word a lot, there's no reason we can't find other ways to say 'okay'. There's the 'thumbs-up' sign, the head nod...can you think of any more?
Explore every meaning of this word
Check if loved ones are okay. Quickly okay fun plans or get-togethers with people. Do more than just 'okay' at work. Okay, these are our suggestions...now go ahead and explore your own.
Okay, Here’s 5 Cool Facts About ‘OK’
It's a baby, etymology-wise
'Okay' originated 150 years ago, according to popular theory, so it's a relative newbie as far as words in the English language go.
Van Buren's followers created O.K. Clubs in New York and around the country to support his political campaigns
The 'okay' hand gesture
The 1840 presidential election also gave us a hand gesture we associate with ‘okay’ — forming a rough circle by touching the index finger to the thumb and raising the other fingers in the air.
Another day, another slang term
'Okay' seems to have inspired multiple slang words, including 'oki doki,' first popularized in the 1994 film “The Little Rascals.”
It was almost 'OW'
The whimsical way to ask if everything was 'all right' — 'OW' — was certainly more popular than 'OK,' but the latter stayed with us while the former faded into obscurity for some reason.
Why We Love OK Day
It's a well-traveled word
'Okay' has jumped geographical boundaries, appearing in some form or another in languages all over the world – Arabic, Spanish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, and more.
It's got a fun if debated, history
It got its start in the 1800s (maybe) and has captured our hearts — and our vocabulary — since then. The word and related slang terms keep evolving too, and who knows what version of 'okay' will pop up next.
We love that 'okay' is being celebrated
Because it's the best, easiest, most versatile, and most common word we know. Don't judge us, okay?
OK Day dates