who·​dun·​it | \ hü-ˈdə-nət How to pronounce whodunit (audio) \
variants: or less commonly whodunnit

Definition of whodunit

: a detective story or mystery story

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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.

Examples of whodunit in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Daniel Craig plays the wily detective brought in to untangle the truth in Rian Johnson's old-fashioned all-star whodunit, as the family of Christopher Plummer's famed mystery writer circle like vultures. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Knives Out': Film Review | TIFF 2019," 8 Sep. 2019 This one seems on track to be a hit: A beloved Agatha Christie whodunit, adapted for the stage by the very funny Ken Ludwig. Mary Carole Mccauley, baltimoresun.com, "Top Baltimore arts events for fall 2019," 29 Aug. 2019 Rian Johnson’s first movie after directing and writing Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a classic whodunit story. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "The first trailer for Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a wild take on whodunits," 2 July 2019 Philosophical debates turn violent, and a whodunit slowly emerges from what amounts to a bleakly beautiful stage play. Travis M. Andrews, Washington Post, "The definitive ranking of Quentin Tarantino films, from worst to best," 30 July 2019 Beautifully translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead (Riverhead Books, $27) is a riveting whodunit with a black-ice surface of fairy-tale charm and a white-hot core of moral fury. Julian Lucas, Harper's magazine, "New Books," 22 July 2019 But then along came Christie’s creations, captivating whodunits that often featured eccentric detectives like Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple cleverly cracking the case. Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities, "Review: Park Square shows off Christie’s mastery of mystery in fun fashion," 20 July 2019 The final whodunit is powerful and leaves Harry — and readers — wondering what's next. Rob Merrill, Dallas News, "Super sleuth Harry Hole is at his sharpest in Jo Nesbo's 'Knife'," 9 July 2019 Still, her new adventures make for an incredibly bingeable whodunit, and the biggest strength of the show continues to lie in Veronica and Keith’s relationship. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "The Moody Return of Veronica Mars," 15 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whodunit.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of whodunit

1929, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for whodunit

alteration of who done it?

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Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for whodunit

The first known use of whodunit was in 1929

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English Language Learners Definition of whodunit

informal : a novel, play, or movie about a murder where you do not know who committed the murder until the end

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Spanish Central: Translation of whodunit

Nglish: Translation of whodunit for Spanish Speakers

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What made you want to look up whodunit? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


recurring in steady succession

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