The dictionary-approved spelling for the ring-shaped cake made of dough and fried in fat is doughnut. The shortened donut has been around since the late 1800s, but it wasn’t popularized until the late 20th century, when the successful American doughnut chain Dunkin’ Donuts made it ubiquitous. Today, writers outside the U.S. still favor doughnut by a wide margin. Donut appears about a third of the time in published American writing.
Donut is a simpler spelling, so it may grow even more common now that it has a foothold. Those of us who don’t wish to assist Dunkin’ Donuts’s branding would be wise to resist the trend, though.
Throughout the English speaking world, most edited publications favor doughnut over donut. Here are a few examples:
I say that almost every morning when I get out of bed even though I have never made a doughnut in my entire life. [The Atlantic]
The corporation is vacating the doughnut-shaped TV Centre by 2015. [Guardian]
Hundreds more were lost in the near-collapse in November of doughnut chain Krispy Kreme. [Sydney Morning Herald]
But donut appears fairly often, and it’s no longer just an American thing—for example:
I counted at least four bakeries, and sampled a truly marvellous donut in the main square. [Stuff.co.nz]
Was it because the blog outed their favorite little-known coffee and donut shack, bringing hordes of unwanted tourists to their undercover hangout? [Independent]
Smith has the amazing ability of making you feel great, even if you’ve just downed a donut. [Toronto Sun]