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The work "okay" has circled the globe and entered common parlance in dozens upon dozens of languages. Its meaning is flexible, being used in the following situations:

  • to agree, as in: "Okay, let's do that."
  • to describe something as lackluster: "The food was just okay."
  • to suggest something as acceptable: "You did an okay job."

No historian or linguist precisely knows the first origins of the word. Some point to similar meanings in Greek, Choctaw (the tongue of a Native American people), and several African languages. The word first garnered acceptance in the US, so could have come from immigrants, native peoples, or slaves imported from Africa during the 1700 or 1800s. Whatever its origins, "okay" became popularized during the 1840 US Presidential election, and then quickly spread the globe.

Preview the lesson material:

Warm Up: Discuss the question with your partner for five minutes.

  1. What does "okay" mean? What do you think its origins are?

Summarization: Summarize the article with a partner. Try to do so with only two or three sentences.

Discuss: Discuss these questions with a partner. Remember to support your answers.

  1. Were you surprised by the word's origins? Why/not?
  2. Do you use "okay" in you native language? If yes, how?
  3. Do you know the origins of any other words? Check your dictionary and discuss.

Download the lesson:



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