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 Everyone is a suspect at this mystery party, so join in the fun to figure out whodunit. Alison Stanton, The Arizona Republic, "47 Halloween events around Phoenix scare up fun for all ages," 13 Sep. 2020 Convinced that his servant has wrongly confessed, Cecily aims to discover the truth in this delightful whodunit set in the 18th century. Monitor Reviewers, The Christian Science Monitor, "Last chance for a summer fling: The 10 best books of August 2020," 24 Aug. 2020 What seems on the surface like a run-of-the-mill missing-kid psychological thriller is, in the hands of writer/director/actor Peter Facinelli, a sneakily complex and even a bit bonkers whodunit. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "What to stream this weekend: Disney+'s 'The One and Only Ivan,' Netflix kid flick 'The Sleepover'," 19 Aug. 2020 Irving will host a virtual and interactive whodunit based on the board game Clue. Sarah Bahari, Dallas News, "Col. Mustard with the candlestick in the kitchen? Irving plays its own version of Clue," 29 July 2020 Netflix recently announced a new French whodunit based on a Coben novel. Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune, "In the mood for a thriller? 7 French films show that suspense has no language barrier," 29 July 2020 Beyond its simple pleasures, Perry Mason is a reminder that police don’t have to be the focus—much less the heroes—of every whodunit. Judy Berman, Time, "Cops Is History, Long Live the Detective Show," 11 June 2020 Far from a true crime Hollywood whodunit, the big bombshells in this film are emotional. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Natalie Wood’s death is still big business. In HBO’s new doc, her family fights back," 5 May 2020 So the initial idea was as simple and abstract as putting a Hitchcock thriller in the middle of a whodunit, but still turning it back into a whodunit at the end. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Rian Johnson Turned the Whodunit on Its Head," 3 Dec. 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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The first known use of whodunit was in 1929

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Last Updated

27 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Whodunit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whodunit. Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for whodunit


How to pronounce whodunit (audio)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on whodunit

Nglish: Translation of whodunit for Spanish Speakers

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