What is the difference between "ok" and "alright".

Do the two words have the exact same meaning? If not, what is the difference? Is the difference reflected only according to different usages in different circumstances?


1 Answer 1


I do not know of any pair of words that have the same meaning and don't think it very likely (except certain alternate spellings and pronuncations of the same word, where even there it means something, except it is about you: your dialect and background, and there are often pragmatic factors at work). So this sort of question is always a good question, and often one that dictionaries don't help much with.

"OK" is particularly difficult, with many folk etymologies (like letterism for "Orl Korrect") and even an expansion or two (Okey Dokey and okay). It is very informal, and I believe quite universal across brands of English, but perhaps less in Britain. If you believe the Orl Korrect etymology, I think it relates to American Military jargon, presenting on parade. In the computer and mobile world, it has a special role as being short - so OK and NO are the positive/negative answers you can give in two characters. OK often means you are agreeing without really caring one way or the other.

"All right", or "alright", are different spellings of the same thing, and not quite so informal. You can also just say "right". In British English "right you are" is I think the origin of "righty oh" (or various alternative spellings thereof), and is clearly closely related. Alright often means you are agreeing against your better judgement, so is then pronounced in a grudging tone.

Of course both can be pronounced slowly or with strong falling tones to indicate negativity.

Both can be used not to mean "okay" but the opposite (that you have agreed with yourself to make a stand, make a move, or some such)

"Okay, that's enough..." "Alright, that's enough..." "Right, that's enough..."

But then there are some slang adjectival uses that tend to be more dialectically limited, and are thus harder to substitute (but people still do at times).

"She's a bit of alright!" "He's an okay sort of bloke, I guess!"

  • What will be answer to question like "Can you please do work tomorrow itself" or "Bring your books tomorrow"? Is it "Okay" or "alright" perfect here. In chat mostly in internet, is "Okay" more perfect than "alright"? Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 5:28
  • Can you please work tomorrow? Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 15:06
  • I would probably answer "sure!" to the first (agreeing) and "okay, I'll remember!" to the second (acknowledgement). But either okay or alright would be fine for either, but perhaps sound a little reluctant and short on their own. The first one is a question so yes would be appropriate (Yes I can - but can't someone else?) but it can be interpreted as a command and then okay (or alright) is appropriate. Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 15:13
  • This is off-topic, but what does "tomorrow itself" mean?
    – user87189
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 15:53
  • David, we understood your wonderful explanation. However it would be great if you could provide an example of ok and alright usage
    – Naresh
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 1:06

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