Doughnut vs. donut

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. []

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]

57 thoughts on “Doughnut vs. donut”

    • The creator of the GIF also things it’s pronounced “jiff” even though acronyms aren’t meant to be pronounced making him completely wrong.


      • The definition of an acronym is something that can be both abbreviated and pronounced, like NASA. You’re thinking of letterization. Don’t accuse someone of being a follower if you don’t know the meaning of a word that you are using.

      • I disagree. There can be a definite difference in inflection. To me, “donut” places emphasis on the “nut” syllable, while “doughnut” places emphasis on the “dough” syllable. That’s a matter of opinion and usage, though.

      • NO! I disagree the phonetic transcription of “donut” would be /doʊnət/ while “doughnut” would be /doʊnʌt/ Chris had it right but he did not know how to properly phrase his response. The “American donut” adds whats called a schwa or and unstressed vowel. The pronunciation of doughnut does not have a schwa therefore there is a little more stress on the “u” making it an /ʌ/ sound or the “o” in oven sound for not linguist/ speech language pathologist.

        • That’s really interesting on paper since I’ve never heard anyone verbally pronounce the two any differently in America in practice. Doughnut and donut sound exactly the same when spoken here because it’s considered alternate spellings of the same word.

          I can see why there would be a difference in a country/region where the words aren’t the same, though, or are pronounced according to spelling rather than meaning so they’re be treated as phonetically different just because one has ‘ough’ and the other has an ‘o’ regardless of how people ACTUALLY say it.

    • I thufft you should be thoruff and go thruff all the words with “ough” and see if they should be pronounced “uff”

      • you don’t have to be so rough on him… sometimes it’s a tough to know how to pronounce some words. It can be easier to give a gentle cough to alert the user to incorrect pronunciation. Easy enough isn’t it?

      • My favorite example of the atrocity that is English spelling is the word “ghoti”. It is not a real word, but if it was it could be correctly pronounced “fish”. “gh” as in tough, “o” as in women, and “ti” as in nation.

        These spellings are a historical artifact from when words were pronounced differently or when they belonged to different languages. I have no problem with people changing words to correctly reflect how they are actually pronounced.

        • I agree, English is a mutt language and needs to be released from the stifling grip of grammarists and English teachers. They have tried to systematize it and put it in a box so that it won’t ever change and evolve. I try to spell “through” as “thru” and “though” as “tho” whenever possible. If they’re used enough, they will become accepted spellings.

          • One major problem – for centuries now, written English is more “symbolic” than actually reflecting current regional/national pronunciations. It will be hard to fully “systematize” it without all its variants in short time becoming almost mutually exclusive and unrecognizable to other English speakers. This is why any serious, major spelling reform has failed to-date.

          • The first time I read how ghoti was supposed to pronounce fish I knew that someone had never been good at the clapping game…

      • Blame the Norman scribes who came to England with the 1066 Invasion. They didn’t like the old Runes that were part of the then Latin Anglo-Saxon script and “substituted” their own spelling conventions for the symbols they expunged. A debate could also be had over the various pronounciations of “th”, due to the same process.

      • pf1065 used “couldn’t” and your reply said see if they “should” be. You need to understand better the difference between could and should.

    • doughnut is pronounced “donut” because it comes from the origin of dough but this difference is “donut” the american english and “doughnut” the english english

  1. I write “doughnut” because it’s correct. People who use “donut” probably think “through” is spelled “thru”.

    • Or they’re like all of the societies throughout history that adopted new spellings, usage, or pronunciation of words that were popularized in one form or another, further contributing to the fluidity of language that accounts for why people don’t sound the same or use the same words today that they did 10 years ago nor 100 nor 1000 in spite of all speaking “English”.

    • I prefer to spell it “thru” as often as possible (aka, not formal) because it’s more clear what I’m saying. While we can all look at the word “through” and recognize it as the word that sounds like ‘thru/throo’, I prefer to go straight to the word and not be forced to internally translate it. Maybe other people think in letters tho, idk…

  2. World, stop being an idiot. It’s ‘doughnut’. It’s also ‘barbecue’, not ‘barbeque’. Just that it sounds like the letter ‘Q’ at the end, and is abbreviated ‘BBQ’ doesn’t mean it has a ‘q’ in it.

    • And cheque (noun- financial instrument)


      Check (verb- to investigate or verify)

      “Check cashing” places make no sense grammatically

  3. More butchering of the English language! Use your head…dough is a noun. One bakes dough to make cookies, bread, cakes, and DOUGHNUTS.
    Doughnuts obviously have a relationship with dough.

    Do is a verb not a noun!!! Also, do is generally pronounced (du’) not (doe’) which is the homophone with dough.

    The word donut (slang or dialect as far as I’m concerned) is an example of either great marketing or illiteracy.

    • Cakes and doughnuts are made from batter.
      Personally, I think donuts are good. But when they’re bad, you can put the ugh in donut to make doughnuts.
      All in all, silly arguements are fun.

      • Oxford English Dictionary
        (Foremost authority of English language)

        A small fried cake of sweetened dough, typically in the shape of a ball or ring.

        Dough not batter

        Dough’nut’…..see the connection?

        BTW dough and batter seem to be the same thing when you review the def.
        Your thoughts on batter does not negate my logic on proper spelling of doughnut.

  4. It’s interesting to me how strongly people feel about “the English language” and which words are correct. Especially when the very model they defend is just the bastardization of what came before it and that of what came before it and so on.

    I laugh when I see people snark about how something isn’t even a real word/is just slang (how awful!) when half of the words they consider real ORIGINATED as slang or made-up nonsense that eventually BECAME real through widespread use, finding their way into dictionaries that once scoffed or ignored them.

    I’d build a time machine if only to bring English speakers across history together for a chat so I can marvel at how each generation, each era, thinks the next is grossly uneducated and illiterate, all because of words. Shapes and sounds we string together from nothing, then act as if they belonged since the beginning of time.

    I think it would do everyone good to remind themselves that no matter how superior a grasp they think they have on the English language, there was a time when the words they cling to as correct didn’t even exist. That there was a time when someone would have called THEM dim-witted fools for using them.

    Language has no objective right or wrong beyond the standards set forth by the society using it at that time and those standards change over and over again to the point of a language becoming unrecognizable to those who spoke it centuries or even decades before. And there are standards WITHIN those standards within THOSE standards.

    Literacy is learning those standards and understanding when and how to apply them. Using donut instead of doughnut doesn’t make someone uneducated or illiterate. It simply means they’ve adopted a spelling that’s gained enough popularity over the century for the average person to understand and be comfortable using it.

    If writing a piece for someone/something that favors the traditional spelling, use the traditional spelling. If not, use whichever you bloody well like. There are far more significant things to worry about if one is concerned about a decline in literacy. Show me someone who spells it doeghgnutt. Then we can talk about a problem lol

    • Perhaps you should understand the reasons for this evolution then you can make an informed decision of logical sensible changes. Often (not always) there has been shifts in language because of the illiterate or masses with weak command of language because of pop media and laziness. I can give examples. Because 50 Cent refers to women he shines to as his b*tches, which becomes popular, doesn’t make it proper use of language.
      We categorize our world and understand abstract ideas with words. Word – use has rules, origins with meaning tradition and often great substance. Dismissing this foundation behind words with blind post modern cant erodes culture and rich understanding behind words. Using “whatever one bloody well likes” is an intelltual cop-out.

  5. Sounds like “doughnut” is the ‘correct’ form of usage, but no one will hold it against you if you say “donut.” In fact “Donut” sounds like the correct informal usage, but “Doughnut” is the correct formal usage.

  6. Today I was in class and I was joking around until my fat principal came in and I shouted,”Wanna ‘Donut’.” Everyone laughed and then he said,”I bet you couldn’t even spell doughnut.” I said,”D-O-N-U-T”,eveyone laughed and my prinicipal left the classroom.Then my friend told me,”You spelled ‘Doughnut’ wrong,its D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T”.And I was like,”Oh…”

  7. Being as how the word probably started off as dough-nought, or a zero made out of ummm… dough, what we’re witnessing is just the inevitable shrinking word syndrome. can’t say I mind as all those superfluous Gs and Hs complicate things unnecessarily.


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