While typing a post on SO, I noticed that the word "ok" (when used in the sentence "I'm still learning so it is ok") was marked as misspelled (got to love spellcheck!) The first suggestion, however, confused me. The suggestion was "OK" (as opposed to "ok"). Then I thought, what about "okay"?

So, why is "OK" correctly spelled (vs "ok") and what is their relationship to the word "okay"? They all have the same meaning; could "OK" be a form of slang or abbreviation?


10 Answers 10


"Okay" is listed as a variant spelling of "OK" in my local dictionary. This previous answer has a good description on the origin of "OK":

According to the OED, it's an initialism of oll (or orl) korrect, first seen in 1839.

I suspect that "ok" is not listed as an acceptable spelling because the origin of the word was "OK" due to its being an initialism. The variant of "okay" is just how one would spell a word with the same pronunciation. With "OK" and "okay", there isn't much need for "ok".

  • 2
    Yeah, in the end "okay" is just how you would read "OK"...
    – Alenanno
    May 16, 2011 at 21:05
  • 3
    This is a false etymology. See here: illinoisprairie.info/chocokeh.htm . The term is certainly Choctaw, which was the common language of the frontier, and the English term is a loanword, not an acronym.
    – Ron Maimon
    Mar 10, 2012 at 7:49
  • 1
    So "okay" is an onomatopoeia for "OK"? If so, it's a slick example of an onomatopoeia (as for pedagogic purposes)! Jan 29, 2014 at 8:24
  • For anyone looking for the page @RonMaimon linked to, here it is on archive.org. Jul 3, 2018 at 21:50
  • I generally use "okay" as an adjective, and "OK" in all other cases. "He's an okay kid." "OK, I will take care of it." I somehow feel "He's an OK kid." looks weird. Nov 23, 2021 at 18:48

O.K. was probably the first spelling (and there are dozens of theories about its origin). OK is an obvious shortening, maybe by somebody who had only heard the phrase. But ok would be something different, perhaps a small okapi. That's what your spellchecker thought wasn't okay.

Edit: O.K. is pronounced 'okay', and so is OK. But ok would be pronounced 'ock'.


From AP Style...

Home > AP Stylebook > Chapter O > OK, OK’d, OK’ing, OKs OK, OK’d, OK’ing, OKs Do not use okay.


From Grammar Girl:

The Origin of OK "OK" was born in America in the 1830s. Much like the text messaging abbreviations of today, "OK" was an abbreviation for a funny misspelling of "all correct": "oll korrekt." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the "okay" spelling didn’t appear until 1895.

There were other odd abbreviations with similar origins in the same era ("OW" for "oll wright," for example), but Martin Van Buren, whose nickname was Old Kinderhooks because he was born in Kinderhook, NY, adopted the motto "Vote for OK" and called his supporters the "OK Club" in his presidential campaign, and the campaign publicity established "OK" in the American lexicon.

"OK" and "Okay" Are Both OK The two spellings peacefully coexist today: the Associate Press recommends "OK" and the Chicago Manual of Style recommends "okay." My publisher follows Chicago style for my books, but to honor the word's origins, I insist on "OK" instead of "okay." So far, they have been kind enough to indulge me.


I will try here to present how the “O.K” initials; was first finds in English Language. When the first Greek emigrants came to the American continent they have no any knowledge in English.
They only want to work and nothing additional knowledge wants to have.
An exception to this were few of them have the willing start learning English, so there Bosses assign to them a leading roll in smaller groups.
Under these circumstances these individuals has the task to cover the gap between the Greek with no English knowledge and there Bosses.
So every time when a job was finished they write on document’s the sign of “O.K” which means “Olla” “Kalla” which translated in English is “Everything is good”.
So all they’re happy because they’ve found a common area of communication between them by typing the initials “O.K”.
So the echo of the initials "O.K" is "Okay" because of speling the two letters.

  • 1
    Are you suggesting that OK comes from Greek? May 17, 2011 at 11:59
  • @Steve In a way yes, that comes from a necessity for communication as I’m explained above. Sort and simple initials; with solid meaning. Of course not from the Greek Language directly May 17, 2011 at 14:22
  • @Steve, Didn't you know? Everything comes from Greek! I've never heard this theory before, though.
    – TRiG
    Sep 3, 2011 at 20:27
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    This is fascinating. Can you source this? Oct 27, 2011 at 16:52
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    This is incorrect. Ok comes from Choctaw, and there can be no reasonable doubt about this. See here: illinoisprairie.info/chocokeh.htm for a complete argument. The coinciding specialized strange usage of both terms is particularly persuasive.
    – Ron Maimon
    Mar 10, 2012 at 7:50

I'd say nothing explains better than examples. Found some good ones here. They've quoted news publications to give a better understanding. One thing is a sure-shot: There is nothing called "ok"... It's either okay or OK or O.K....



Simply because you spelled "ok" in small letters.

In correct spelling/ grammar, the word should be capitalized "OK". I've experienced this problem myself. "Okay" is just another way of spelling the word, which is OK to use. There are also other forms of the same word like "O.K" or "O.K." and those are also acceptable, but are used rarely in everyday life. So feel free to write "OK", "Okay" or "O.K" since all of them are correct.

  • Spelling is not grammar; and who is to say what is correct or not? OED references O.K., OK, o.k., ok, okay, okeh and okey.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 11, 2014 at 6:15

The correct answer is "okay" is an African Wolof word which entered American English during the slavery era.

The large number of joke "backronyms" for "okay", such as the Old Kinderhook Club, or the OK Brand & Coral, represent literate Americans, in the 1800s, absorbing this word without acknowledging its source.

(Unfortunately, the large number of joke backronyms permit dictionaries to pick any number of non-African word origins. "Banana" does not have this problem, because it does not happen to match any English letter names...)

As an historical footnote, the ancient Greek signal flags for "all is well", "Ola Kala", appeared as "OK." This is entirely a coincidence, because Greeks did not pronounce "OK" like "okay."


I think okay is used in narrative prose and sentences e.g "Father okayed admission of his son to local sports club". Whereas O.K. is more often used in conversational sense E.g a boss says: "you will go to the warehouse tomorrow and purchase these items." The employee says: "O.K. I will do it. But shall I pay as COD or ask them to charge to account?"

  • Do you have any sources?
    – user11550
    May 7, 2012 at 2:58

Okay is the spelling used in prose. O.K. is only used in prose if the writer is describing the activity of another writer. E.g.: "He wrote 'O.K.' on the invoice."


The most historically accurate spelling is the common 19th century one, Okeh, which was disfavored to disguise the native American origins of the term. See here: http://www.illinoisprairie.info/chocokeh.htm . The pronunciation of "Okeh" is "okay", so the spelling "okay" is more phonetically accurate, and might be preferred on those grounds.

The acronym "OK" is a made-up thing partly to support frontiersman Andrew Jackson and his running mate Martin Van Buren, and it was given a bunch of false acronym associations. The term was never an acronym, but it sounds like one. 19th century people, and many 20th century ones, knew it was frontier Choctaw.

So you use OK if you want to pretend its an acronym, and okay if you don't want to do that. I personally think the correct spelling one should use is the clearly native American okeh, but, to my shame, I always use "Ok" (one capital), since "OK" sounds like shouting, and either "okay" or "okeh" take two keystrokes longer to type.

  • 3
    "Okeh" never seems to have been a common 19th century spelling of "OK". If it did come from Choctaw, it was never written down until the 1830s (except in Choctaw dictionaries), when it was spelled O.K. Mar 10, 2012 at 22:47
  • @Peter Shor: This is belied by evidence given in the link, which cites 19th century sources spelling it okeh, and includes Woodrow Wilson, who despite his spotty (to say the least) record on racial harmony, advocates "okeh" to emphasize the Choctaw origins. The Choctaw spelling appears as standard spellings in Russian (as I understood it from the linked page) and German (I think, see page) where the Native American origins were never seriously doubted. It is a shame that modern sources uniformly follow an obvious fabrication, as opposed to recognizing the bilingual nature of frontier America.
    – Ron Maimon
    Mar 11, 2012 at 4:50
  • The wiktionary entry for "okeh" has its first citation in 1918. If it had actually been a common spelling in the 19th century, they would have been able to give an earlier one. (Note that I assume they don't count dictionary entries giving the etymology for O.K. or Choctaw language books as valid uses, since both existed earlier.) The link you give does make a good case for "okeh" being the true origin for O.K., but you're reading evidence into it that isn't there. Mar 11, 2012 at 11:46
  • @pete Shor: I agree you would have a hard time googling for "okeh", but it's like trying to find "w'allah" or "Kus achta" (sorry, this is very vulgar) in Hebrew--- everyone knows its Arabic borrowing, but it's not used in formal speech or in writing. The "okeh" spelling is advocated by Wilson, based on Choctaw dictionaries, I assume the fellow who wrote the page found some 19th century references to okeh, but I didn't check them at all. I am not an expert on this, I just know that words aren't produced by acronym jokes until WWII (notably fubar'ed).
    – Ron Maimon
    Mar 11, 2012 at 19:21
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    The OED does not find the spelling "okeh" before 1900, while "O.K." is documented from 1839. If it came from the Choctaw "okeh", this fact is certainly well hidden in the written record. Aug 11, 2014 at 0:34

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