"Donut" Versus "Doughnut"

In honor of National Doughnut Day, we investigate where the "donut" spelling originated.

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

In a tweet, Andrew Lowe asked, "Did @DunkinDonuts single-handedly foster the accepted alternative spelling of 'doughnut'?"

Andrew's theory has merit.

What’s the Trouble?

"Donut" is a simplified variant of "doughnut."

A doughnut is literally a nut (ball) of dough. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the name was first reported by American author Washington Irving (using the pen name Diedrich Knickerbocker) in 1809. The sweet treat he was describing resembled what today we’d call doughnut holes rather than the puffy rings we now call doughnuts.

The "donut" spelling appeared about 100 years later but did not immediately thrive. However, its use has grown steadily and significantly since Dunkin’ Donuts was founded in 1950.

What Should You Do?

Stick with "doughnut."

Here's an example:

A paradox, the doughnut hole. Empty space, once, but now they've learned to market even that. A minus quantity; nothing, rendered edible. I wondered if they might be use—metaphorically, of course—to demonstrate the existence of God. Does naming a sphere of nothingness transmute it into being?

— Margaret Atwood in The Blind Assassin

 Get more tips like this in Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master in No Time:

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.