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Doughnut or donut? We ask the experts.

Two Chicago copy editors weigh in on how to spell our favorite ring o' fried dough.


As we geared up for Doughnut Day, a.k.a. Donut Day, a.k.a. the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, we here at TOC HQ faced a conundrum: How do we refer to our fave fried dough meal? (Whoops, we mean "treat.") 

D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T or D-O-N-U-T? 

RECOMMENDED: The best donuts in Chicago

Staffers began to take sides, arguing for the traditional spelling (the inclusion of "dough"), or else the more casual spelling (sans the "ugh"). I found myself researching "doughnut etymology" [Entenmannsology? Sorry.—BD], one of the cooler Google searches I've done lately, and found out some revealing facts:

☻ The entry for doughnut on etymonline.com1809, American English, from dough + nut. First recorded by Washington Irving, who described them as "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks." Meaning "a driving in tight circles" is U.S. slang, 1981.

☻ The entry for donut on etymonline.comsee doughnut.

Thus, it seems the traditional spelling is preferred. Then again, why should we let Douglas Harper from Lancaster, P.A., editor of, have the final word? To settle the matter once and for all, I consulted two well-respected Chicago-based copy editors:

Carol Fisher Saller (senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press and author of The Subversive Copy Editor): "I'm sure you couldn't possibly have known that next to pizza, donuts are my favorite food. (Oh—maybe that's why you picked me to ask?) Anyway, as you can see from the previous sentence, I favor 'donut,' because it's easier to type, but if I were editing something, I'd go with our house dictionary, Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate, which calls 'donut' a variant of 'doughnut.' Either way, it's important to remember that cake donuts are superior to raised!"

Rebecca Maughan (freelance copy editor and former copy chief at Time Out Chicago): "I have had *three* doughnuts already today, so take my word for it: It's spelled 'dough' because it's got dough in it. Dunkin' Donuts may choose its brand name because it's clever and short, but that doesn't dictate how all Americans should spell the word. There's a product called Weed B Gon too, but we don't change the spelling of 'gone' because of it."

So there you have it. It's settled. Oh wait, it's not settled at all. (But neither is my stomach after consuming three old-fashioneds, two glazed and a fritter. YOLO!)

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