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OK, adj., int.1, n.2, and adv.

Keywords:
Quotations:
Forms: 

α. 18– O.K., 18– OK, 18– o.k., 19– ok.

β. 18– okay, 19– okeh, 19– okey.

(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Apparently formed within English, as an initialism. Etymon: English oll korrect.
Etymology: Apparently < the initial letters of oll korrect (also orl korrect), humorous alteration of all correct: see A. W. Read in Amer. Speech (1963) 38, (1964) 39, etc.
From the detailed evidence provided by A. W. Read it seems clear that O.K.   first appeared in 1839 (an instance of a contemporary vogue for humorous abbreviations of this type), and that in 1840 it became greatly reinforced by association with the initialism O.K. n.1, O.K. int.2   (see discussion at that entry).
 
Other suggestions, e.g. that O.K  . represents an alleged Choctaw word oke   ‘it is’ (actually the affirmative verbal suffix -okii   ‘indeed, contrary to your supposition’), or French au quai  , or Scottish English och aye  , or that it derives from a word in the West African language Wolof via slaves in the southern States of America, all lack any form of acceptable documentation.
 
Competing theories as to the origin of the expression have been in evidence almost since its first appearance; compare:
1840   Lexington Intelligencer 9 Oct. 3/2   O.K. Perhaps no two letters have ever been made the initials of as many words as O.K... When first used they were said to mean Out of Kash, (cash;) more recently they have been made to stand for Oll Korrect, Oll Koming, Oll Konfirmed, &c. &c.
 
It is not clear whether the ok   of the following quotation represents the same expression:
1815   W. Richardson Diary 21 Feb.   Arrived at Princeton, a handsome little village, 15 miles from N Brunswick, ok & at Trenton, where we dined.
 
In form okeh   (as used by Dr Woodrow Wilson: see quot. 1919 at sense A. 1β. ) on the understanding that the word represents an alleged Choctaw word oke (see above).
colloquial (originally U.S.).
 A. adj.

 1. All correct, all right; satisfactory, good; well, in good health or order. In early use, occasionally more intensively: outstanding, excellent. Now frequently in somewhat weakened sense: adequate, acceptable. OK by (someone) : fine by (a person), acceptable to (a person). Chiefly predicative.

α.
1839   C. G. Greene in Boston Morning Post 23 Mar. 2/2   He..would have the ‘contribution box’, et ceteras, o.k.—all correct—and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward.
1839   Salem Gaz. 12 Apr. 2/3   The house was O.K. at the last concert, and did credit to the musical taste of the young ladies and gents.
1839   Boston Evening Transcript 11 Oct. 2/3   Our Bank Directors have not thought it worth their while to call a meeting, even for consultation, on the subject. It is O.K. (all correct) in this quarter.
1840   Atlas (Boston) 19 Aug. 2/4   These initials, according to Jack Downing, were first used by Gen. Jackson. ‘Those papers, Amos [Kendall], are all correct. I have marked them O.K.’ (oll korrect). The Gen. was never good at spelling.
1840   Morning Herald (N.Y.) 21 Apr. 2/4   The Brigadier..reviewed his Brigade..and pronounced every thing O.K.
1843   J. S. Robb Streaks Squatter Life 72   His express reported himself.., assured Allen that all was O.K., and received his dollar.
1864   Boy's Own Mag. Nov. 450/1   No thought of taking the trouble to find out whether the order was O.K., or ‘orl korrect’, as Sir William Curtis phrased it.
1865   W. H. Russell Atlantic Telegr. 61   The communication with shore continued to improve, and was, in the language of telegraphers, O.K.
1874   E. S. Phelps Trotty's Wedding Tour xiii. 133   We had an O.K. time till we went to bed.
1894   C. H. W. Donovan With Wilson in Matabeleland xi. 253   As our American friends would say, we were still ‘O.K.
1900   Law Times 10 Nov. 35/2   The State Court seems to have decided that when a lawyer marks such a decree O.K., he is, by so doing, estopped from questioning that decree by appeal.
1908   C. E. Mulford Orphan xiii. 160   He's an O.K. dog, that's what he is.
1922   D. H. Lawrence England my England 101   At first Joe thought the job O.K.
1928   Z. N. Hurston Let. 15 Oct. in Life in Lett. (2002) 127   Things are ok by me. How is it with you?
1937   D. L. Sayers Busman's Honeymoon viii. 148   ‘I say, Mr. Superintendent, are you going to want me any more? I've got to get back to Town.’ ‘That's O.K. We've got your address.’
1940   ‘N. Blake’ Malice in Wonderland i. ii. 20   Anything that was efficiently organised was O.K. by Paul Perry.
1959   F. Astaire Steps in Time (1960) viii. 66   Some were outstanding—this one was not, but it was o.k.
1977   Zigzag June 31/1   We could have had a great album, rather than an OK album.
1983   B. Willis & A. Lee Captain's Diary vi. 111   I lay there in something of a trance,..just praying that I will be OK to bowl tomorrow.
2000   M. Barrowcliffe Girlfriend 44 xi. 297   Talking until the greasy spoons open is OK by me, if I'm with a group of blokes, but it seems rather a waste of resources when with such a pretty girl.
β.
1895   Bulletin (Sydney) 9 Feb. 15   I'm ryebuck and the girl's okay.
1919   H. L. Mencken Amer. Lang. 161   Dr. Woodrow Wilson is said..to use okeh in endorsing government papers.
1932   Sunday Express 3 July 9/6   I had given my hand to the comedian and heard him say: ‘Hold on, baby... Hold on. It's okay. You're going to be fine.’
1934   N. Sainsbury Gridiron Grit xii. 142   Okay by me.
1953   J. Y. Cousteau Silent World 91   Tailliez came up and reported, ‘Everything okay. They're playing chess.’
1979   Washington Post 25 Dec. b1/3   A lot of what we get is coming out of guilt, idealism and pity of suburban people, and I suppose that's okay. But it is better if the giving comes out of a relationship.
1989   Japan Times 21 May 3/6   He looks good, stable... He will be okay.
2000   Feng Shui for Mod. Living May 63/1   Let's take three restaurants in a short parade of shops, all pretty unprepossessing, all have okay chefs..okay menus..okay decor.

1839—2000(Hide quotations)

 

 2. Fashionable, modish; prestigious, high-class.

α.
1869   Henry De Marson's New Singer's Jrnl. xxxv. 246   The Stilton, sir, the cheese, the O.K. thing to do, On Sunday afternoon, is to toddle in the Zoo.
1899   R. Whiteing No. 5 John St. xxiii. 233   She objected to the parting of the ass's mane as ‘too O.K. for a moke’.
1950   S. Potter Some Notes Lifemanship i. 30   The word ‘diathesis’..is now on the O.K. list for conversationmen.
1950   S. Potter Some Notes Lifemanship v. 78   Just as there are O.K.-words in conversationship, so there are O.K.-people to mention in Newstatesmanship.
1958   Spectator 19 Sept. 360/3   Mr. Macmillan ended his letter by saying we must treat this crisis ‘calmly and constructively’. Both these are very OK words just now.
1963   Listener 17 Jan. 140/3   In an eminently ‘Third Programme’ talk..he drew a comparison between this opera and his recent King Priam which was bedevilled by O.K. names and words.
1973   Times Lit. Suppl. 8 June 650/5   Handy quotations from such OK literary luminaries as Macaulay, Nietzsche, Strindberg, [etc.].
1983   P. Fussell Class v. 97   You used to booze a lot on expensive hard liquor, a habit mastered at a socially OK college.
β.
1958   Observer 7 Sept. 13/4   Being in fusion is the really okay thing now.
1966   New Statesman 11 Mar. 348/1   The writer's ideas are rooted deep in the soil of experience and have not been processed into pet ideas and okay-words before they have ripened.
1970   G. Greer Female Eunuch 159   His secretary had..moved out of Haight Ashbury when it ceased to be okay to live there.
1976   New Society 1 Jan. 5/1   In spite of the levelling effect of package holidays, skiing is still an okay sport. A survey..showed that British skiers were more likely to be upper middle class abs living in the prosperous southern counties.

1869—1983(Hide quotations)

 

 3. Of a person: decent, trustworthy; congenial.

α.
1871   J. H. Banka State Prison Life iv. 61   I say, boys, let up on that feller. I had a chat with him to-day, and he's all O.K.
1914   R. W. Lardner in Sat. Evening Post 23 May 62/3   I am going with Allen and his wife and her sister Florence. She is O.K. Al and I guess she thinks the same about me.
1935   W. Faulkner Pylon 95   I don't know the guy. But the two I did know were o.k.
1992   Drew Mag. Winter 15/2   I grew up with the value system that if you're doing something for other people, then you're OK.
1999   F. McCourt 'Tis xvi. 124   Thanks, Hans. You're an OK kraut.
β.
1962   A. La Guma Walk in Night i. 5   ‘He's okay,’ Foxy told him. ‘Mikey's a pal of ours.’
1989   R. Kenan Visitation of Spirits 161   The tall basketball players and the large football players joked around him and considered him one of the fellows. An okay dude.
2000   Punch (Nassau, Bahamas) 11 Dec. 17/1   Sometimes he bugs me so much I feel like screaming, but other times he is an okay guy.

1871—2000(Hide quotations)

 

 4. Appropriate, suitable; permissible, allowed. Frequently with for.

α.
1925   R. W. Lardner You know me Al ii. 73   See if you can find me a house down there... That yellow house across from you would be O.K.
1989   Which? Oct. 471/2   The MMC [= Monopolies and Mergers Commission] also said that it's OK for the card companies to charge annual fees to cardholders.
1995   Maxim July 40/2   It's perceived to be OK for a woman to show her feelings, but a man can be just as distressed yet have to keep that macho stiff upper lip.
2000   Independent 31 Jan. ii. 7/1   She [sc. a chicken] saw the ducks on the village green and naturally assumed it was OK for her to wander around.
β.
1955   P. Chayefsky Television Plays 230   Eddie's a bachelor. It's okay for him to go rooting around town, picking up girls.
1967   H. Harrison in Best of Harry Harrison (1980) 131   ‘There are some things that the human eye should not look upon.’ ‘Horseapples! The human eye is okay for looking at anything you want to name.’
1990   Village Voice (N.Y.) 16 Oct. 35/4   It's okay for girls to boy up, even butch up, as long as they don't own up to liking other girls.
2000   Out Mar. 142/1   Pre-AIDS, it was okay for the No Wavers to avoid pink triangles. But that's touchy post-gay territory now.

1925—2000(Hide quotations)

 

 5. Of a person: comfortable, at ease, content, satisfied; reasonable, understanding. Usually with about, with.

α.
1997   in J. E. Lighter Hist. Dict. Amer. Slang II. 709/1   Are you OK with that?
1999   D. Bolger Ladies' Night at Finbar's Hotel 10   ‘Listen,’ she tried again, more gently, ‘are you sure you're OK about this?’
2002   N.Y. Times 6 Jan. ix. 7/1   Mr. Diamon's 15-year-old son, Jeff, said that he was pretty much O.K. with his dad's snowboarding.
β.
1978   Washington Post 30 Jan. d6/5   Even what they [sc. Europeans] have for breakfast is pretty much the same. They feel okay anywhere here. Close to home. It's not the same for the Americans. It's like being in a submarine or up in a balloon.
1980   Sojourner (Nexis) 30 Apr. 5   We need to be able to work together and still make each other feel okay about our personal choices.
1990   E. J. Chopich & M. Paul Healing your Aloneness i. i. 6   This is neediness—needing others to make us feel okay about ourselves.
1994   J. Kelman How Late it Was 131   It was the same guy as yesterday and he was good and okay about it.

1978—2002(Hide quotations)

 
 B. int.1

 1. Expressing assent, concession, or approval, esp. with regard to a previous statement or question: yes, all right.

α.
1839   Evening Tattler (N.Y.) 2 Sept. 2/2   These ‘wise men from the East’..are right..to play at bowls with us as long as we are willing to set ourselves up, like skittles, to be knocked down for their amusement and emolument. OK! all correct!
1839   Philadelphia Gaz. 12 Nov. 2/1   Yes—that's good—O.K.—I.S.B.D. [= it shall be done].
1840   Boston (Mass.) Daily Times 15 Dec. 2/3   What is't that ails the people, Joe? They're in a kurious way, For every where I chance to go, There's nothing but O.K.
1853   F. Townsend Fun & Earnest 14   To the earnest inquiries of another, he simply respondeth, O.K.
1866   Notes & Queries 18 Aug. 128/2   The following telegram has been received from Mr. R. A. Glass..‘O.K.’, (all correct).
1930   L. Charteris Last Hero v. 91   ‘I'll come with you.’ ‘OK,’ said the Saint.
1932   H. Nicolson Public Faces i. 8   ‘O.K.,’ he had said, ‘I'll remind old Peabottle.’.. The expression ‘O.K.’ was not one which should be used in the Foreign Office, and least of all by an Assistant Private Secretary.
1939   Times 24 Oct. 4/5   ‘O.K.’ is an abbreviation of the expression ‘Orl korrec’—all correct. It is English, I think Cockney—not an Americanism. I was born in the sixties and remember it when I was a boy.
1941   ‘N. Blake’ Case of Abominable Snowman xviii. 201   O.K. I'll report developments, if any.
1957   J. Montgomery Twenties xviii. 262   By mid-1929, when sound films had spread across Britain, there was hardly a town or village without some child who was saying ‘O.K.’ when previously he would have said ‘Yes’.
1976   Publishers Weekly 12 Jan. 52/2   The older dog asks if Pepper will allow him to go along for awhile and Pepper says ok.
1991   J. Barnes Talking it Over xii. 182   OK, I'm sorry. You just got on my wick.
β.
1929   J. P. McEvoy Hollywood Girl ix. 147   Jimmy (dashing out door): I'll kill the son of a——Girl (going back to kitchenette): Okay, big boy.
1934   J. O'Hara Appointment in Samarra vi. 158   Okay. No skin off my ass.
1976   J. Wainwright Bastard ii. 35   He nods and says, ‘Okay. Point taken.’
1993   M. Flynn In Country of Blind 408   Bosworth flushed. ‘Okay,’ he said petulantly.

1839—1993(Hide quotations)

 
 2.

 a. Appended as an interrogative to a clause, phrase, etc., in expectation of agreement or approval.

α.
1929   E. Wilson Diary in L. Edel Twenties (1975) 514   O.K., all right?
1933   K. Nicholson & C. Robinson Sailor, Beware! 142   That's eighty bucks altogether..OK?
1976   Sunday Times 16 May 42   When George Davis stepped out of Parkhurst prison last week few headline writers could resist the temptation. George Davis is free OK? (the Sun), George Davis is freebut is it OK? (the Guardian).
1976   Observer 13 June 1/5   He added belligerently: ‘I don't want to answer no more questions, OK? No disrespect to the court.’
1999   J. Burchill Married Alive i. 16   Mother, I didn't say ‘fuck’, I said ‘frig’, OK?
β.
1965   J. Wainwright Web of Silence 34   This is a gun—and it's silenced. Okay?
1978   H. Selby Requiem for Dream 147   You start laying guilt trips on me and I don't need it, okay?
1991   S. Cisneros Woman Hollering Creek 14   Your Barbie is roommates with my Barbie, and my Barbie's boyfriend comes over and your Barbie steals him, okay?

1929—1999(Hide quotations)

 

 b. British. —— rules OK! : asserting the pre-eminence of a specified person or thing. Also with plural agreement —— rule OK!

α.
1972   Guardian 12 July 1   In Leeds the name of Gipton is well known from the wall slogan: ‘Gipton Skins Rule OK’.
1974   Times 29 Apr. 16/8   An abundant football graffitti: Spurs (or Wolves or whoever) Rule—OK?
1976   Punch 11 Feb. (recto front cover)   Harold rules—OK?
1976   Sunday Express 4 July 6/3   He kept going on and on: ‘..there are certain standards to be maintained in first-class compartments.’.. And when he left the train..he gave..a look which said: ‘First Class Rules—O.K.?’
1977   Times 26 Apr. 8/4   The popular graffiti—Rules-OK, which originated amongst the Glasgow razor gangs of the thirties.
1981   Times 31 June 1/1   It is a case of the tobacco industry rules, OK.
1994   Clothes Show Mag. May 46/1 (caption)    Team with bobby socks and sandals—schoolgirl chic rules OK!
2002   Time Out N.Y. 29 Aug. 36 (caption)    Fop punk rules OK. Electroclash? Ambient dub-bag house? Yesterday's news!
β.
1975   S. Jacobson in New Society 27 Mar. 780 (title)    Chelsea rule—okay.
1977   J. Gardner Werewolf Trace i. 17   ‘James Bond rules. Okay?’ chuckled Bud, sashaying the car neatly between a pair of taxis.
1991   M. Curtin Plastic Tomato Cutter xxi. 173   You black English protestant, you've fuckall chance tonight against me medal. Rome Rules okay.

1972—2002(Hide quotations)

 

 3. Introducing an utterance or as a conversational filler, typically without affirmative or concessive force, but rather as a means of drawing attention to what the speaker is about to say: well, so, right.

α.
1933   Daily Mirror 7 Nov. 13/2   Just look around amongst your friends and colleagues who are constantly using such phrases as ‘Oh yeah?’, ‘You're tellin' me?’, ‘O.K. baby’, and see if I am not right!
1976   Beano 17 Jan. 20/3   OK! Let's have your names!..Have mercy, officer! We're innocent.
1994   Denver Post 2 Jan. h5/4   OK, all you technoids. Think you're up on the latest and greatest in personal computing?
β.
1942   in Best from Yank (1945) 64   Okay, boys! Off and on! Hit the deck!
1966   D. M. Thomas in Listener 17 Feb. 247/1   Okay, my starsick beauty!.. Where would you like to go?
1994   Q. Tarantino & R. Avary Pulp Fiction iv. 160   Okay, gentlemen, you've both been to County before, I'm sure.

1933—1994(Hide quotations)

 
 C. n.2

  An indication of approval; an endorsement, authorization. Frequently in to give the OK (to) .In early use chiefly with reference to the marking of a document, etc., with the letters ‘OK’.

α.
1841   ‘Dow, Jr.’ Short Patent Serm. 106   Fortitude..infuses new life into his soul, while Hope adds an O.K. to his condition.
1896   Congress. Rec. 5 Mar. 2507/1   The deputy marshall..would send word to the prosecuting attorney asking for an ‘O.K.
1901   S. Merwin & H. K. Webster Calumet ‘K’ xiv. 273   A formal permit..signed by Porter himself, and bearing the O.K. of the general manager.
1930   Liberty 11 Oct. 30/3   Rube copped a sneak on the joint to find out if it was ready. In twenty minutes he gives us the O.K.
1956   Rev. Eng. Stud. 7 440   It is Pound who is to give the O.K. to the gods (not to God).
1961   L. Mumford City in Hist. xvii. 535   The fifth vice-president whose name or O.K. sets the final seal of responsibility upon an action.
1988   A. Bennett Talking Heads 30   The sermon was about sex... Marriage gives the OK to sex was the gist of it.
β.
1925   G. Ade Let. 28 Mar. (1973) 104   If, while he was putting his okeh on this material, he privately disapproved of it and was sending word back east that the material was not what you wanted, of course he was putting me in a tough position.
1931   N. Amer. Rev. Jan. 15/2   During the last two years Raskob has either put his okay on every major move that Jouett Shouse has made, or else suggested it himself in the first place.
1973   Freedomways 13 18   Nothing goes down without his okay.
1991   Bostonia June 20/1   Do you know how long it takes for those goddamn pen-pushers to give us the okay?

1841—1991(Hide quotations)

 
 D. adv.

  Satisfactorily, acceptably.

α.
1886   Lantern (New Orleans) 29 Sept. 3/2   Favetto umpired the game all O.K.
1886   Daily News 16 Oct. 5/5   Leastways we ought for to know it O.K., we are told it frequent enough.
1922   J. Reith Diary 14 Dec. (1975) ii. 128   He said..that if things went OK I should get a rise soon.
1989   T. Parker Place called Bird xi. 143   We did OK and it was a good life.
β.
1972   Publishers Weekly 6 Mar. 31/2   He says most of that magazine's ex-staffers have done ‘okay’ in re-adjusting.
1974   ‘E. Lathen’ Sweet & Low xix. 185   He got through a third degree okay.
1985   T. Parks Tongues of Flame i. 40   I did okay in all the sciences and terrible in the arts.

1886—1989(Hide quotations)

 

This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, March 2004).

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