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

As to plot: Anton Vowl is AWOL, a fact that draws his pals into an outlandish whodunit. James Geary, WSJ, "Five Best: James Geary on Works of Inspired Wit," 16 Nov. 2018 What Wind Gap’s residents are more concerned about is playing a game of whodunit and speculating why each of the victims was targeted. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Sharp Objects shows that men can’t comprehend a dangerous woman in “Fix”," 23 July 2018 Her deconstruction of these documents turns the memoir into a sort of therapeutic whodunit. New York Times, "Viv Albertine, Midlife Radical," 1 June 2018 While keeping inside the lines of a classic whodunit plot, Verdon enriches the formula with a probing analysis of the way a community rips itself apart. Marilyn Stasio, New York Times, "Hate Thy Neighbor. Or Maybe Just Kill Him.," 6 July 2018 What could have been a powerful study of religion in the modern era becomes, instead, a whodunit that winds up getting solved like a TV mystery, although the way Giannoli deals with Jacques’ path to recovery is more poignant. Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Apparition' ('L'Apparition'): Film Review," 13 Feb. 2018 The Mousetrap San Leandro Players presents Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit about a group of strangers trapped by a storm who discover that a murderer is among them. SFChronicle.com, "Theater capsule reviews and listings, week of July 15," 12 July 2018 The real mystery of Sharp Objects is not the whodunit, but Camille herself, and all the tangled dark things inside her that are stirred up by her homecoming. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sharp Objects Episode 1: Home Is Where the Horror Is," 9 July 2018 But Sharp Objects, based on the first novel by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, turns out to be something much darker and more ambitious than your average whodunit. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "It’s Hard to Watch Sharp Objects, and Even Harder to Look Away," 28 June 2018

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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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

Comments on whodunit

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


a shady place in a garden or forest

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