who·​dun·​it hü-ˈdə-nət How to pronounce whodunit (audio)
variants or less commonly whodunnit
: a detective story or mystery story

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 relatively new term (introduced only a year earlier) 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 fell 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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Burton’s sensibilities and style are all over this irresistibly quirky, sardonic whodunit. Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times, 23 Nov. 2022 As for how this whodunit compares to the first reveal (and with a third Knives Out film already ordered by Netflix), Odom Jr. said this one is simply bigger. Kirsten Chuba, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Nov. 2022 This whodunit is a farcical take on a Hitchcock classic. Kayla Samoy, Chicago Tribune, 10 Oct. 2022 The whodunit — or more accurately whydunit — narrative here never quite reaches the heights of his best work, but any chance to tumble down a Park rabbit hole feels like a sticky, transgressive treat. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 28 Oct. 2022 Part comedy, part drama, part romantic whodunit, and part magic-realist fantasia, the whole thing adds up to a darkly funny examination of love and betrayal, with two couples in its crosshairs. Marley Marius, Vogue, 17 Oct. 2022 The whodunit, based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, comes to a very creepy conclusion. Janaya Wecker, Men's Health, 21 Sep. 2022 This thing is whimsical whodunit first, message movie second. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 4 Oct. 2022 And the whodunit is synonymous with Agatha Christie. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 16 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


alteration of who done it?

First Known Use

1929, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of whodunit was in 1929


Dictionary Entries Near whodunit

Cite this Entry

“Whodunit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whodunit. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



who·​dun·​it hü-ˈdən-ət How to pronounce whodunit (audio)
: a detective or mystery story presented as a novel, play, or motion picture

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