The most recognized word in the world?

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I remember reading once that the words “OK” and “Coke/Coca Cola” are the two most recognized terms in the world, regardless of languages. I read this in “The Beach” (1996). Yes, it is a fiction novel but a quick Google search seems to verify it and common knowledge can conclude that it is generally agreed on. The protagonist of this novel suggests the phrase “Game over” is recognized as universally as “OK” (because it is very commonly used in video games). I think “Game over” might not be a bad contender but it is not as well-recognized as “OK” and “Coke”. So the question is: Is it true that those two words are really the most recognized? What about “USA”, “America” or “Europe”? Is “Coca Cola” a more commonly recognized word than “America”?

I can think of some other global trademarks that may be as famous as “Coca Cola”. “McDonald’s”, “Microsoft”, “Apple”, “Sony”, “Mercedes Benz”… Hmmm, now that I listed them it seems they are not nearly as well-recognized as “Coke/Coca Cola” and I’m afraid “Pepsi” is out of the game as well. What about popular words that have come into use in the recent years? “Internet”, “Email” or “Windows”? Wait, which word is more widely recognized worldwide, “Windows” or “Microsoft”? Is there anyone who uses “Windows” not knowing it is a product of Microsoft? Some big names in the world of sports such as “Barcelona” or “Manchester United” perhaps? They can be interesting for certain demographics but no good when the whole humanity is concerned. (Interestingly, I have met a group of young kids in rural Indonesia who recognized the word “Chelsea” but didn’t know where or what “London” is. Indonesian word for “London” is “London”, incidentally. So Chelsea’s marketing in Indonesia has been going really well, apparently…)

Anyhow, I’m very certain that anyone who recognizes any of these words above knows the word “OK”. So which word could be more recognized universally than “OK”? What about “English”? Do people who recognize “OK” know that it is an “English” word? Do they recognize the word “English” as well as “OK”? Is it possible that there are people who recognize the word “English” but have no idea what “OK” means? I believe “OK” is more recognized than “Coke/Coca Cola” universally and attempted to come up with other words that could be a possible contender to “OK”. Here are my suggestions: “Hello”, “America”, “Islam” and “ball (as in football or basketball)”. Would you like to share your ideas?

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5 thoughts on “The most recognized word in the world?

  1. I wouldn’t be surprised if “hallelujah” and its variants were more recognized.

  2. I think religious terminology is a valid point, and some of the religious based vocabulary could definitely be contenders for the subject matter of this article. However, after doing a simple search on http://bab.la and Google Translate, it can be concluded that even with varying religions that have various types of holy centers or Deities, the English word “God” is most likely not completely universal.

    “God” Translates as:

    Zot – Albanian
    Allah – Ayerbaijani
    Jainkoaren – Basque
    Déu – Catalan
    Bog – Croatian, Slovenian
    Bůh – Czech
    Gud – Danish, Norwegian, Swedish
    Jumal – Estonian
    Diyos – Filipino
    Jumala – Finnish
    Dieu – French
    Deus – Galician, Portuguese
    Gott – German
    Bondye – Haitian Creole
    Isten – Hungarian
    Tuhan – Indonesian, Malay
    Dia – Irish
    Dio – Italian
    Deus – Latin
    Dievs – Latvian
    Dievas – Lithuanian
    Alla – Maltese
    Bóg – Polish
    Dumnezeu – Romanian
    Boh – Slovak
    Dios – Spanish
    Mungu – Swahili
    Tanrı – Turkish
    Thiên Chúa – Vietnamese
    Duw – Welsh

    There are several common themes to different root words in the above list, but I don’t think it can be assumed that the word “God” is known by all languages of the world, as “OK” might be.
    *it can also be noted, that the IDEA of “God” may be understood around the world, but different people will use different words to express this. But on that thought, the idea of “OK” might be even more universally understood.

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