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Doughnut Or Donut? Discuss

The word "doughnut" first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1782 but by the early 1800s, "donut" became widely used.
The word "doughnut" first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1782 but by the early 1800s, "donut" became widely used.

Updated June 4, 2021 at 6:57 AM ET

It's National Donut Day. And shops across the country are celebrating by giving away deliciously fluffy, airy, sugary goodies. But we're concerned with the more pressing issue: Does anyone actually still spell it D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T?

Mary McCoy, senior librarian in the arts, music and recreation department at the Los Angeles Central Library, says that is her preferred spelling, though she admits "the O-U-G-H version is definitely unwieldy."

"It is purely personal preference because upon looking into it, they seem to be equally acceptable," McCoy explains.

Justifying her own choice, she says: "It just looks more official, though I don't know why a doughnut needs to be official."

Some of the more bizarre variations on the spelling of the word include D-O-N-O-T-E and D-O-W-N-U-T.
/ Bloomberg via Getty Images
Some of the more bizarre variations on the spelling of the word include D-O-N-O-T-E and D-O-W-N-U-T.

Doughnut definitely came first

The word first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1782. "However, donut is almost always in the mix," according to McCoy.

By the early 1800s, it seems, D-O-N-U-T became a legitimate rival to the longer version of the word.

There have also been a number of alternate spellings over the last couple of centuries and none seem particularly colloquial one way or the other, McCoy says.

Some of the more bizarre spellings include D-O-N-O-T-E and D-O-W-N-U-T, both popular in the 1800s before fading away.

A woman, likely a doughnut/donut-lover, wears a hat resplendent in deep-fried goodies.
Tim Hales / AP
A woman, likely a doughnut/donut-lover, wears a hat resplendent in deep-fried goodies.

Even the cookbooks cannot decide

After examining the library's extensive cookbook collection, one of the largest in the country according to McCoy, she says there's a near even split between the two spellings.

"We have 310 books where it's donut and 307 where it's the other way," McCoy said.

Jessica Lopez, a supervisor at the iconic Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, Calif., says she's strictly in the D-O-N-U-T camp.
Joe Sohm/Visions of America / Universal Images Group via Getty
Jessica Lopez, a supervisor at the iconic Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, Calif., says she's strictly in the D-O-N-U-T camp.

Jessica Lopez, a supervisor at the iconic Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, Calif., says she's strictly in the D-O-N-U-T camp.

"I just grew up spelling it like that," Lopez said from inside the shop with the towering donut overhead. "I'm not sure who spells it the other way."

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter to her when she and her team are gearing up for the onslaught of customers who will line up for a bag of free donut holes.

Lopez doesn't think about how they're spelling it. "I just take their orders," she says, before rushing off the phone.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.