So one of our readers asked us this question the other day: How was the word “OK” invented?


OK is a word that most of us tend to use on a daily basis. It’s something very common for us, but did you know that it’s, in fact, one of the newest words in the English vocabulary? Its origin is traced around 175 years ago, more specifically to the 19th century in Boston. Instead of being a word of agreement like it is today, it was actually an editorial joke that ended up becoming viral overnight.

All of this started at the offices of Charles Gordon Greene in 1839. He was running the Boston Morning Post at that time. Writers at that time used a lot of abbreviations and most of them just stuck to the writer world. Most of these terms were unsuccessful and with no real effect outside the offices.

The way OK appeared was as an abbreviation for OLL KORRECT. This was first printed in an article that was satirical and which was focused on grammar at that time. The overall origins were only revealed 120 years later in the 60s and they were found when Allen Read was digging for answers on this particular topic.

Before that, it was very unclear in regards to where this word actually comes from. A few people thought it was coming from the Civil war as a nickname for biscuits, others focused on Europe. There were people who thought that this was a telegraph abbreviation for the term Open Key. In fact, some people actually thought that Martin Van Buren invented this during his presidential campaign where he stated to vote for OK, his town of Old Kinderhook. But Van Buren only made the term popular, as we mentioned earlier the origin is a lot easier to understand and quite interesting to track for sure.

When the word first appeared in print, it became very catchy among the locals. And as many things do, it spread all over the country very fast. Not only that, but even the same journal that popularized it used OK in a wide array of situations and it made the entire experience a whole lot more interesting and diverse for many users.

By the end of 1839, the word appeared in the New York Evening Tattler, the Boston Evening Transcript and the Philadelphia Gazette. And since the next year was actually focused on a presidential campaign, OK started to be even more popular.

As you can see, the origins of OK are quite interesting and they do pertain to the journalistic world. However, it was very hard for researchers to spot where the true origin of OK was, especially since many considered Van Buren to be the one who created it. One thing is certain, OK is one of the most valuable English words at this time even if it has a history which is quite peculiar, to begin with. As you can see, it was a strange history for this word, but we did end up having one very useful word because of it!


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Last Update: November 23, 2016