Origin of O.K?

Where this word or short form (O.K) originate and what does it stand for?

Cecil has been there already: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_250.html

I heard that it was an abbreviation of a humorous phonetic spelling of ‘All Correct’ in a Cockney accent - ‘Orl Korrect’. That’s the only explanation I can rememeber off the top of my head, and it doesn’t seem very likely…so, off to google.com I go…

Looks like that it IS a well accepted explanation.


I also found another explanation - that the phrase ‘hunky dory’ evolved to ‘okey-dokey’, and that was reduced to ‘okey’.

I’m sure somebody else will have a better explanation. Using a search engine is a good way to find answers, though, I just typed “Origins of OK” (with the quotes) and did a search.

For once I’m not certain I agree with Cecil. I can think of one other obvious explanation.
It’s a cliche for a Scotsman/Northern Englishman to say “Och, Aye” for “Oh, yes”. It’s also perfectly true, they do say it. My Grandmother used to say this all the time, as did a lot of her relatives and it’s still common on English TV and in movies.
Seems obvious to me that OK could be a corruption of ‘Och, Aye’ and it wouldn’t require any convoluted etymology.

According to to the Oxford English Dictionary, Bill Bryson and Cecil, it comes from “ole korrec.”

Then came the OK-“Old Kinderhook” connection.

I’d pretty much be happy with these authorities.
As for the Scots explanation, that really is a novel one. Yeah, they certainly do still say “Och, aye” out there and after working there for a couple month, I found myself saying it too. The only thing is that it really doesn’t sound like “O.K.” However, in terms of linguistic development, I can easily see how it is possible to get from “Och, aye” to “OK.” I really like your idea. I wonder where the holes are. (Assuming that Cecil and the OED are right.)

Most of the authorities agree with Cecil.

Here’s The Word Detective.

Here’s The Mavens’ Word of the Day.

Here’s World Wide Words.

Here’s Dave Wilton’s Word Origins.

The problem with all the other theories of the origin of “O.K.” is that we have one that completely explains it already. We know that there was a group in Boston in 1838 who created a number of such humorous abbreviations based on misspellings of words. We have printed references to it by the next year. We know that in 1840 it was popularized because the Presidential candidate Martin Van Buren was known as “Old Kinderhook” and groups of his supporters formed “O.K. Clubs.” We can trace the expansion of the use of the term throughout the U.S., then throughout the rest of the English-speaking world, and finally throughout the rest of the world over the next century and a half.

There’s no more evidence for the Scottish origin theory than there is for a dozen other theories that have been advanced. People seem to think that etymology is just an outlet for their creativity, so that if they can come up with some clever strained origin for a word that makes it as likely as one that has much more evidence for it.