Okay Etymology: Why Do We Say "Okay" And Where Did It Come From?

By | March 21, 2020

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As one of our most commonly used colloquialisms, "okay" is so much a part of our language and culture that it is hard to imagine a time when it wasn't used. Obviously, it had to start somewhere, but no one is exactly sure about the origin of the term. The general consensus is that it came from the election campaign of President Martin Van Buren, but "okay" may have much older roots. Let's look at the etymology of "okay."

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Martin Van Buren was called "Old Kinderhook." (history.com)

Martin Van Buren

In the 1840 presidential election, incumbent Martin Van Buren faced a politician's nightmare: an opponent who was a popular war hero with a catchy campaign slogan. William Henry Harrison and his running mate, John Tyler, rallied voter support by reminding the public of Harrison's victory against the Native Americans at the Tippecanoe River in their campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too." The pair also used the phrase "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" to describe themselves as humble in origin but tough enough to handle foreign affairs. To compete with Harrison's cleverness, Van Buren and his supporters began calling Van Buren "Old Kinderhook," a reference to his hometown in upstate New York. Presidential supporters soon created "O.K. Clubs" across the country to aid his campaign.