People often wonder whether to write OK, okay, O.K., ok, or o.k. They’re all OK, but the last two are less so – at least in formal styles – and the first may be the most OK of all, nowadays. Some prefer okay because it looks more normal or proper, or because its inflected forms (okayed, okaying) don’t warrant an apostrophe.
The word has many apocryphal etymologies, including Latin omnis korrecta, Scottish och aye, Choctaw oke, German ohne Korrektur, French au quai, and Finnish oikea. But it’s actually an abbreviation of the deliberate misspelling oll korrect.
Monosyllablic forms such as ’kay, kay, and K are common, especially in text messages, internet chat and casual speech, while long versions – like the rhyming reduplications okie-dokie, okey-doke(y), and the Ned Flanders-y okely-dokely or okily-dokily – are also popular. Other variants include okey and the obsolete okeh.
Reading The Dain Curse last week, a 1929 detective novel by Dashiell Hammett,* I came across yet another form:
When we reached the Temple door I had to caution him: ‘Try not breathing so hard. Everything will probably be oke.’
At first I thought it might be pronounced the same, maybe with an unstressed second syllable; but apparently it’s homophonous with oak. Chambers Slang Dictionary says the adjective, as in Hammett, above, occurred in the US in the 1920s–1950s; the exclamation oke! appeared only in the 1930s.
I can’t see it coming back in style, but I guess that’s oke.
* See also: Dashiell Hammett on how to be a detective.