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On the Origin of OK

The following passage is from the book, By the Flow of the Inland River - The Settlement of Columbus, Mississippi to 1825, by Samuel H. Kaye, Rufus Ward, Jr., and Carolyn B. Neault. Columbus, MS 1992.
". . .During the Creek War the Choctaws, principally under the leadership of Pushmataha, not only sided with the Americans but contributed 500 men to Andrew Jackson's army (Niles 1-1-1824)
- Although the Creek war was over, the Choctaw contingent would help the Americans in one last battle. In January, 1815, tradition has it that Pushmataha and his warriors, while serving under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, gave a lasting contribution to the English Language. During the battle, Jackson is said to have asked Pushmataha if the fight against the British was going well for the Choctaw detachment. Pushmataha supposedly answered with a Choctaw word which meant that things were all right. Jackson liked the word and began using it himself. The word was OK. According to the Dictionary of Word Origins, the favored source for the symbol OK ". . seems to be the Choctaw word OKEH, it is so" (Shipley). The use is also attributed to President Andrew Jackson among others." [Rufus Ward intimates it may have actually been Pushmataha's nephew who had this reported exchange with Jackson. Also, it may have been Jackson's adjutant who made the inquiry.]
Pushmataha Pushmataha - Choctaw Warrior
Courtesy Dr. John M. Kaye

Thanks to Jim Rolke, of Columbus Mississippi, for recounting this matter.

Recommended further reading.

The Choctaw Expression "Okeh" and the Americanism "Okay" - Jim Fay, Ph.D. [Link to web page no longer works. 09 Jul 2013]

Search Words and Phrases, including mispellings - Choctaw, Chocktaw, Andrew Jackson.

Send comments/questions to Bob Fritzius at fritzius@bellsouth.net


Reader Comments

(E-mail addresses are omitted for privacy.)


From: Harry Keen, W5YAH
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2004 14:46:31 EDT
Subject: OK
To: Robert Fritzius
CC: Judy Linton

Hello Bob Fritzius !

Thank you for telling people on your website an explanation of the origin of the
expression "OK." I saw where a certain Dr. Jim Fay and Jim Rolke offer research
information also. Their efforts are to be much appreciated.
Please forward this to them.

However, I believe I see the clearest, most verifiable and most convincing discovery
of its origin.

I was stationed by the military near Aberdeen, Scotland. The weather there seemed
to me to always to be so cold. The people spend hours, lifetimes, generations in that
unfriendly cold.

Scotland has always been a bully killer when others came to conquer. Even today,
much of their language is independent of others and incorporates Gaelic.

Now, in America we have an utterance to express pleasant surprise: OH ! YES !

Over there they have an utterance to express pleasant surprise: Achh ! Aye !

From the very begining of my active duty over there I noticed the REAL SIMILARITY
between the sound of their Achh ! Aye ! and the American OK !

That was over 42 years ago. Since I married a lady from Scotland, the similarity has
been under my watchful observation ever since.

I daresay humbly that my opinion on the matter is significant because I have also spent
years studying and researching the Holy Name of G-d Almighty and challenge the best

The word HALLELUYAH was the most famous word in the world up until WWII.
Americans began to absorb the lingo of their Allies to be affable and we related
especially well to the Brisish. The Scottish Fighters in their kilts were hailed as
"The Ladies from Hell." An indirect honor to them and other Scots was to adopt the
Achh ! Aye ! as OK !

( We also use thumbs down, like Ceasar in the Roman Colliseum.)

If you retort that OK had some occurences prior to WWII , that's fine, but even most
of those surely had this same Gaelic traceability.

Thank you again for your internet research.

    Harry Keen, W5YAH

Ps. The word HALLELUYAH means: " Praise be to YAH ! " Psalms 68:4.