While speaking when should I use "alright" and when should I use "okay" ? Their meaning what I think is somewhat similar yet their sense seems to be different.

Please provide some helpful examples with your explanations.


When I am saying the meanings are similar but senses are not same. This occurs with synonyms. Yes. That is what synonyms are what I believe. Such as poor, broke, bankrupt are synonyms but we can't use them in same sense or in same context usually.


In the first edit I used examples of poor, broke and bankrupt for the ease of understanding. Of course this is not the case with "alright" and "okay". They are more interchangeable. Nevertheless, as I said before, that their meaning is similar , but their sense differ. If I would think of some other words like these, they will also make some new questions which I don't want to include in this.


Why do I say "alright" and "okay" has similar meanings? Because when we say alright, It gives a sense of satisfactory response, such as to put it in "fairly well" response. When we say okay I presume it gives a sense of satisfactory response but a "not specially good" hidden in there somewhere also. The sense of the words may differ that alright carry a bit of positive outlook and okay may carry a bit of negativity with it.

Now I am not sure of these conclusions but this is as far as I could gather from what I have observed while listening to natives speak.

I would had put this 3rd EDIT in answer but for good reasons I don't have those privileges now.

  • 1
    You’re going to have to explain more, possibly giving contrastive examples of your own showing this perceived difference. Please note very carefully that the words meaning and sense are synonyms, so it does not make any sense to say that the senses are similar but meanings are different: it contradicts itself. You should explain why the dictionary did not help you.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 20:24
  • I will try to with other examples.
    – keyboard-k
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 20:40
  • Should I ask this in english.stackexchange.com ?
    – keyboard-k
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 20:46
  • I think this is a good question for this site. I have a formal answer coming below.
    – Mowzer
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 21:01
  • As to your "where should I ask this" question, try reading THIS. As for accepting the first answer you receive, you should read THIS, too. This is an interesting question, and it's okay to ask it here. While I have no issue with Mowzer's answer, I'm hoping more people will chime in.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


There are at least two ways these terms can be used:

1) They can be used to indicate assent:

For example:

We need some more eggs to make the soufflé. Can you go buy some?
Alright. (or, Okay.)

2) They can be used to indicate that the quality of something is "satisfactory but not exceptionally or especially good":

For example:

How was the movie last night?
It was okay. (or, It was alright)

In these two contexts, I find these terms pretty much interchangeable. In the first, you agree, but without any particular eagerness. In the second, they both convey about the same sense of enthusiasm (or apathy).

I will offer an opinion that differs slightly from Mowzer's: I think they are both somewhat general and informal terms. If for some reason more formality, politeness, or precision is called for, I would recommend using different words altogether. For example:

Judge: I'll need you to approach the bench and take the oath.
My response: Yes, your honor. (not, "Alright" or, "Okay")

English Professor: What did you think of the Faulkner story you read this weekend?
My response: It has a good message, but it's a little dry. (not, "It's alright" or, "It's okay")

Girlfriend's mother: We need some more eggs to make the soufflé. Can you go buy some?
My Response: I'd be glad to. (not, "Alright" or, "Okay")

I think your question is a fair one, and your analogy is a good one. But, in this case, I think the two words are much more interchangeable than, say, broke and bankrupt.

  • I used bankrupt and broke to make the meaning more clear , If I had given a more closely related/interchangeable words , some people would not be able to understand what I was trying to say.
    – keyboard-k
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 17:13
  • Well done. My sentiments exactly.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 18:42

Short Answer

  • Alright = more formal.
  • Okay = less formal.

I think you are smart to pick up on the subtle difference in the usage of alright vs okay — especially by native speakers.

I had a brief discussion with my roommate (both of us are native speakers) about your question and we arrived at the same conclusions. As follows.

They mean the same thing.

We both agreed that the two terms have nearly exactly the same meaning. And we tried to come up with examples where one would be used but if we used the other it would change the meaning. We could not come up with any.

So, the only difference we could think of is...

It depends to whom the speaker is speaking.

Since alright is slightly more formal when spoken it might be the preferred choice when there is a difference in power or authority between the speaker and the listener.

For example, one might be more inclined to opt for alright over okay in any of the following scenarios.

Choose alright when...

  • responding to a boss
  • responding to a parent
  • responding to a teacher
  • responding to a judge or police officer

Alright seems to carry just a slight bit more respect since it is not considered "slang" like okay is.

  • 2
    I’ll make a deal: if you change your backticks to italics, I’ll upvote you. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 21:32
  • @tchrist: Done. And edited. It's hard to know what formatting conventions to use between sites so I appreciate this type of feedback. :)
    – Mowzer
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 21:52
  • Done, and thanks. One really shouldn’t use code formatting for non-code anywhere on Stack Exchange. There are quite a few Meta.SE posts about this plague.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 21:53
  • I have unchecked your answer for now as I have been pointed out to wait for 2 days in order to get more answers.
    – keyboard-k
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 17:30
  • Sorry to spoil the party but what proof do you have that alright and okay have different registers? When responding formally, one should go for the auxiliary or short answers: Yes, Your Honor, I will. Yes, I do. Yes, I am. That is the "most formal".
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 18:39

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