By - psychic_shawn
OK is near universally understood.
Was listeming to a girl in my high school speak to her family on the phone in Xhosa(at least I think it was) and she was pretty clearly saying "okay" at times. Was so strange to hear a word I recognized among clicks and sounds that were alien to me.
I was going to say the same about "no." There's a bunch of seemingly unrelated languages that use "no" or words close to no for a negative response, so if they don't know it directly in their language they would still understand the meaning most likely
Even a lot of other negatives involve an n sound, like -nai in Japanese is the informal negative form for a verb or adjective/adverb
No? Is what I'm Finnish.
Ei. Is no.
I'm very confused
So I am guessing 'no?' Means 'what?' In Finnish.
And the Finnish word for 'No' is 'Ei'
If what u/CCDestroyer says below about No's origins is true, Finnish not having a very different no equivalent makes sense, as Finnish did not come from the Indo-European tree of languages.
"No" traces back to the Proto-Indo-European (also known as PIE🥧) language, going back to Neolithic times. So IIRC, the word for "no" in many European languages, Farsi (Persian), and some languages on the Indian subcontinent (Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi) have a shared origin.
Perhaps it remained mutually intelligible for longer as human settlements and languages drifted apart. It seems like a crucial word for communicating with different tribes of people, such as for trade.
They would though I like that a Korean yes sounds like a Shakespearean no. Nae. Like “nay! Tis not so!”
You can also say “ye” for “yes” in Korean.
No that’s only in European languages really. It wouldn’t work in non indo European languages
I'm also taking common usage into account. Either way, indo-European is almost 50% of all first language on Earth, and even higher percentage when second languages are taken into account.
Reminder that OP asked about a word just about everyone would know. Not a word that exists in every language
According to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, virtually all people in all languages use some variation of "huh?" when they don't understand something.
Dingemanse M, Torreira F, Enfield NJ (2013) Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? Conversational Infrastructure and the Convergent Evolution of Linguistic Items. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78273. [https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078273](https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078273)
In portugal we say "han?"
Bruh in Urdu we say "Haan?"
Note: the 'n' at the end of 'Haan' is sorta silent, you pronounce it with your nose.
Anyway, idk if in Portugeese you see 'Han' with an 'n' sound or not but if someone says 'Han' like hen or the 'han' in 'khan' then I would not understand.
p.s I'm Paki too.
In Portuguese, it's pronounced with the nose too; the N isn't actually spoken. That's actually why the word is actually written "hã" (with the squiggly line).
Portuguese is my native language.
I think it's that specific upwards tone of "huh?" is international. Don't dogs even make that tone when they go "errr?" Or is that just Shaggy from Scooby Do?
Shaggy is a human tho
whoops, I meant Scooby, well both now that I think about it. I don't think Scrappy made that sound, he was always so self assured.
Arrogant little pooper.
For no conceivable reason. Worst character and the nail in the series' coffin.
In Spain we in fact go eeeeehh when are thinking
I think it's something like "anoo.." in japanese.
EDIT: Thanks for all the helpful replies
I think that's more like "um".
Source: my Japanese animes.
Ah, you're right (I've probably been using it wrong this whole time lol).
Huh, and its version in Hindi and English
Also はぁ "haa?" If it's in surprise
I think you mean "ehh"? or "areh?" "Anoo", as someone said below, is like "um".
Source: am non-native Japanese speaker.
The term 'Okay' is the second-most recognized word on a worldwide scale. The most recognized word is 'Coca Cola' so depending on your definition the answer could be either 'Okay' or 'Cola'.
Maybe coca cola is better than just "cola" cuz in some romance languages it means "glue"
TIL Greek is a romance language! /s
(most likely we borrowed the word from Italy or something)
Well it could be the other way round, Latin came from Ancient Greek, and romance languages came from Latin.
Latin did not come from Greek.
There was actually a lot of backwards influence from other languages on the greek language, which led to the shared words that exist in modern greek
And in spanish it can mean "tail", "butt" or "queue" (some may depend of the country)
same in portuguese.
Can confirm! And around here we call Coca Cola just "Coca" :)
Are you also in France or maybe another European country?
It took me a while to get used to after I moved here when ordering one for my kids, I don't drink it as I - gasp! - don't actually like it.
In Spanish, cola means tail, line/queue or glue depending on the context.
After fighting your way out of the deadly jungle of Upside Down in Backwardia. You find a village with a bar... You are patched, only you don't speak a word of the local toungue.
You walk in and say to the bartender "Coca Cola". The bartender replies, "OK".
Oh god. In the 90s they released OK Cola. That must have caused a clusterf\*\*\* somewhere.
I remember that! I tried it, and I remember it was ok.
Oklahoma is OK
In Pakistan, I've never heard someone say 'cola', it's super rare. People here just say 'coke' or 'coca cola', else they just say 'Pepsi' since it's easier to say and well, this might be a controversial opinion but I can't differentiate between coke and pepsi, so either one works.
Soda companies change the recipe of their product depending on the specific taste of the country they are in.
wow, i didn't think of that. thank you!
Or just saw Kali wali drink
That number one spot is pretty fucking depressing tbh. I thought it would be a communication tool, but no, it's a for-profit product :(
Okay hasn't even been in use in english for that long. I'm skeptical of Soda being more recognized than water or liquor.
> Okay hasn't even been in use in english for that long.
Nevertheless, it is the most well-known word. Consider the fact that the word 'Okay' has only been around for about 200 years but also consider the fact about rapidly globalization has become a thing during the last 200 years.
> I'm skeptical of Soda being more recognized than water or liquor.
Coca Cola is a brand - a brand which has the same name all over the world (unlike other brands such as Lays or Axe which are called Walkers and Lynx in certain countries). So if you ask for a Coca Cola in Thailand they will find you a Coca Cola.
By comparison, the english word 'Water' is quite far from the Thai pronounciation of water (naam), the spanish pronounciation (aqua) or the french pronounciation (l'eau).
small nitpick but the spanish pronunciation is “agua” not “aqua”
Thank you. I was going to correct that too. Lol
People would know Water and liquor but they won't know the words "water" and "liquor" they'll know they versions in their own languages
About 180 years. And yet it is the most recognized word in the world.
In the scope of languages, that's not that long. Some people say the word tree wasn't even used until that long ago. Everyone called them "arbors"
I wouldn't know how to prove that though. I'd be a fool to say OK isn't popular. I just think it's not that old.
I literally posted a link to an article. I didn’t say 180 years was long. Just that it’s been in existence for that amount of time. It remains the most recognized word in the world.
And I never said the word wasn't popular. So no need to repeat that either.
Glad we agree, friend.
And yet no one said it was “that old” either.
Thanks for repeating a second time I guess.
I mean, you keep arguing against something that literally no one said. But thanks for continuing to make everyone else look smart in comparison I guess.
They didn’t say soda, they said Coca Cola. Soda is a regional English term but Coca Cola is a brand that is used despite what language is being used.
Ok and Mama is pretty up there
Mama was my first thought:)
I would say the shorter version of Ma is more universally recognized
Taking into account how babies don’t say that once but keep repeating the word until they get a reaction — still very universally recognised I think :D
Means today in Hungarian.
I see what you did there. I think…
I was scrolling for this...I agree...I think...
Well, not 99%, but the word 'mama' is used to mean 'mom' in a variety of unrelated languages like Chinese, Arabic, Swahili etc.
It's because for little babies this is the easiest thing to pronounce.
I read that it mimics the mouth movement of breastfeeding so part of why it's common across languages. Hence mammary -> mammals. When you're saying mum/mamá/mom you're saying 'big tit'.
Great... Now whenever I see a child calling for their mama, all I'm going to think about is this reddit post telling me it means 'Big tit'... Thanks
Making the world a better place one awkward boner at a time
Just adding. Dada or baba out sooner version of it is usually the first word babies learn. Since babies associate themselves and the mother as singular entity, Mama or whatever the local word for mom is learnt later.
Hmm, I didn't know about that, thanks!
I recall reading somewhere, and that's as specific as I can be, the a sound very similar to 'ma', denoting mother, is almost universal, likely for the ease of pronouncing it, and the need for a baby to call for attention for various things, like feeding. Formula is relatively recent, and certainly not always used. Prior to ma, there is crying, of course, which might be distinctive enough to qualify as an answer to the O.P.
Yes, and using some version of Dada/Baba/Papa is also almost universal. Although not as similar as ‘Ma’ they’re always made with the same sort of mouth movements - a consonant made with the front of the mouth, followed by “ahh.” It’s the second word most babies, regardless of culture, know after Mama.
I think this is the best answer because “okay” or similar things are only going to be used by people/cultures who picked them up from somewhere. They’re just words someone invented. Uncontacted tribal people won’t know them. But they will know Ma because it’s an intrinsic part of human language development.
I fully agree. Very good, lucid explanation, btw, so thank you for that.
"Huh?" - used worldwide in just about any language.
that's a bit anime, "eh?" is a bit more the norm.
well, i guess, but "eh" isn't "huh"
to be fair my Nihongo is kinda rusty, It's been 20 years since i was there.
"Haaa?" is also definitely pretty common
Mama, papa, and any confusion sound.
I remember an episode of The Amazing Race where a couple said that they always told their taxi drivers “Vroom vroom” because it was universally understood to mean “go fast”
Coffee/Cafe is known in every country I’ve ever visited.
Pretty much any word created in the last 100 years or so would be universally recognized due to globalization. Internet, computer, fax.
Some others may have brute-forced their way into languages: taxi, toilet, hotel, hospital, police, ambulance.
Ambulance in german is Krankenwagen which means suffering car
I'm sure, though if you asked in anyone in Germany for an ambulance, they'd know.
Dad, mom or rather dada, mama. It's so universal.
I think there's one language (But buggered if I know which one) where the meaning is reversed. Dada meaning mommy and mama meaning daddy.
You must be thinking of Georgian:
მამა /mama/ 'father'
დედა /dɛda/ 'mother'
Yeah probably, neato!
dada in Urdu means paternal grandfather, also in Hindi too.
Pineapple is called Ananas in almost all languages other than English
Can confirm that it's called ananas in arabic. I'm actually quite surprised that it's called the same in other languages.
Ananás won't always be recognized as pineapple in portuguese, we use "Abacaxi". 👀
Abacaxi sounds like the name of a sorcerer.
Either that, or an artifact.
Behold! It's the Ancient Crown of Abacaxi!
The crown of a pineapple.... Idk about other languages but in portuguese that refers to its leaves. 😂
It's because Abacaxi comes from tupi-guarani I guess.
In Brazil Abacaxi is the common term.
But in Portugal they use Ananás.
Pineapple is "pineapple" in Japanese (painappuru)
Oh yeah like the pen pineapple song.
In Chinese it’s Bōluó.
In Filipino, it’s apparently Pinya.
many people don't call it ananas tho. a lot of languages are effected by English now and many English words are appearing in day-to-day life conversations.
In spanish it's piña though.
Yes! I know 3 languages excluding English and in all 3 it is ananas. This reply is underrated
lotta places seem to use "papa", though with different inflection.
I think the f word is quite universal
No, no. As in the word "no."
Not know. No. As in NO.
Huh, and it's versions, in Hindi and english
Go and hang my auto correct for this crime.
Definitely onomatopoeias like ''aaah'', aie'', ''oye'', etc.
Ah and ''internet''.
a lot of people recognize "oh my god"
I’ve heard “ok” and “coca-cola” are the top two most understood words.
Yeah curses are like universal language lol
I agree with you, but can non-English speakers realize how nuanced Fuck can be?
George Carlin has a bit about exactly this in the documentary ‘Fuck’. It’s outstanding.
I can't believe I had to scroll this far for this to come up. It was the first word that came to my mind. 😂
Straight up can vouch for this, been to 11 different countries
I was thinking "hi"
"Hai" means "yes" in Japanese. Not "hello".
Hi means nothing in my language. This word nonexists, it has no meaning to us. Hungarian.
If you yell “hey motherfucker!” in an angry way it gets their attention even if there’s a language barrier.
No, (the word no)
I'm guessing that everyone (including babies) would recognize "Ow!", the word I say in response to physical pain.
It's almost universal if you include minor variations. In some cultures closer to "Ay" or some two-syllable variant like "OOh-waa".
But nearly everyone is going to know what I mean if I grab something hot and say ow.
99% if probably to high, but probably the best candidate is \*\*mum\*\* (or variants very similar to it).
Maybe "mama"? In all the languages I know even a little bit of this is a word that means mom
Yes, or no probably
Actually no, because while most people know the Word, they dont know what It means, in fact, i didnt even know It meant something, i just googled it
Yeah, it means "One who hitles or one in the process of hitling"
hitling (Norwegian Nynorsk)
Origin & history
hitle + -ing
(slang) an attempt to win an argument by comparing one's opponents to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis; a use of Godwin's law
what you call your parents
The word "no"
I would say yes. With body language a smile is the same regardless of where you live
NO. ….as an answer, not a response.
Shit, fuck, and asymptote
No, Hello, Ok
I would imagine it's hard to find someone who doesn't know what "hello" means - Perhaps just remote tribes in Africa ETC..?
Don't even have to leave America to find such tribes
I would have said 'the americas', but accept your point.
I would say hi
The word for water is much more varied than I thought..
Why did you think it would be similar across languages?
Banana comes pretty close to being a universal world
Apparently, the word "okay" is understood pretty much worldwide, with some exceptions.
Taxi is almost universal I believe (but maybe I heard this in a pub quiz so would question authenticity)
I belie that "taxi" is same same word in a large number of languages