What is the one word that most people around the world instantly recognise? It´s OK and it is surprising that linguistically it is a relative newbie, probably only about 180 years old.
Words are fascinating and shape our communication and serve as vessels for ideas and thoughts. Delving into the origins of words, known as etymology, allows us to unravel the intricate history and evolution of language.
Etymology, derived from the Greek words “etymon” meaning “true sense” and “logos” meaning “study,” is the study of the origin and history of words. By examining the linguistic and historical influences, we gain insight into how languages evolve, cultural exchanges, and the rich tapestry of human interactions throughout history.
OK is a ubiquitous term used across the globe in various contexts. It conveys approval, acceptance, agreement, and affirmation. From casual conversations to official documentation, OK has permeated everyday language, but where did it come from? Let’s explore some possible origins since OK´s origins are disputed.
- One popular theory suggests that OK originated from America from the abbreviation of “oll korrect,” a misspelling of “all correct” used in the 19th century. The abbreviation ‘OK’ gained popularity in Boston and New York newspapers, finding its way into everyday vocabulary.
- I like the Greek connection, although it is highly improbable. The phrase “ola kala” in Greek means “all good” or “everything is fine,” and its similarity to ‘OK’ has led to speculation about a potential connection. It was used by Greek sailors in America.
- Another theory traces the origins of ‘OK’ to the Choctaw Native American language. The Choctaw word “okeh” means “it is so” or “it is done.” During the 19th century, Native American tribes interacted with European settlers, and some words from indigenous languages made their way into English, potentially giving rise to the term ‘OK’.
The etymology of words unravels the remarkable journey that language undertakes over time. So, the next time you say OK, take a moment to appreciate the linguistic voyage it has travelled. We’ll just have to be OK with never knowing for absolute sure where it came from.