Is it OK or okay – and why?

Where does OK come from?

One story says that it was popularised and begun in 1840 as a slogan of the O.K. Club, a Democratic party political club of the 1840s.

It stands for Old Kinderhook, the nickname of President Martin Van Buren, born at Kinderhook, New York.

It became popular to describe a member of this club as ‘an OK guy’ because the party was seen largely as a positive thing at the time; hence, so were its members.

It moved into being used to mean someone who was alright!


You might have seen ‘okay’ written. ‘Okay’ is the form used when there is an inflectional ending: okayed; okaying.

It is called the quasi-phonetic written form – other instances of this are:

  • DJ – deejay
  • MC – emcee

In US English, jaycee is used for ‘Junior Chamber of Commerce member’.

However, in written communications, we should use ‘OK’, unless there is an inflectional requirement.