Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
May 18th, 2015
Episode 199 of 795 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 18, 2015 is: whodunit \hoo-DUN-it\ noun : a detective story or mystery story Examples: Betsy packed several romance novels and whodunits to read at the beach. "'Miranda Writes,' a new play that combines the elements of a screwball comedy with a whodunit, will take center stage this month at Naperville's North Central College." Nancy Dunker, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Illinois), April 8, 2015 Did you know? In 1930, Donald Gordon, a book reviewer for News of Books, needed to come up with something to say about a rather unremarkable mystery novel called Half-Mast Murder. "A satisfactory whodunit," he wrote. The coinage played fast and loose with spelling and grammar, but whodunit caught on anyway. Other writers tried respelling it who-done-it, and one even insisted on using whodidit, but those sanitized versions lacked the punch of the original and have fallen by the wayside. Whodunit became so popular that by 1939 at least one language pundit had declared it "already heavily overworked" and predicted it would "soon be dumped into the taboo bin." History has proven that prophecy false, and whodunit is still going strong.