Dunkin’ Donuts is dropping the “Donuts.”Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

  • Dunkin’ Donuts announced on Tuesday that it is officially dropping the “Donuts” from its name. 
  • The chain was crucial to the popularization of the word “donut” over “doughnut” starting in the 1950s.
  • Merriam-Webster even credits Dunkin’ Donuts for helping to popularize the spelling, forcing the dictionary to add the word. 

Dunkin’ Donuts is dropping the “Donuts” from its name. 

On Tuesday, the chain announced that in January, it would officially change its name to simply “Dunkin’.” Tests of the shortened name over the past year have inspired backlash, but apparently did little to convince executives not to make the change official. 

The decision is especially notable because Dunkin’ Donuts played a crucial role in putting the word “donut” in the dictionary. 

Dunkin’ Donuts and Mister Donut, two chains founded by brothers-in-law in the mid-1950s, are some of the first known uses of the term “donut” as opposed to the traditional “doughnut.” 

The first Dunkin’ Donuts was opened in 1950, a revamp of William Rosenberg’s coffee-and-doughnut shop Open Kettle. Rosenberg began franchising in 1955, opening the 100th location in 1963 and 1,000th shop in 1979.

dunkin donutsDunkin’ helped make “donuts” a thing.Mark Lennihan / AP

A Dunkin’ Donuts representative previously told Business Insider the company did not have additional information on why Rosenberg spelled Dunkin’ Donuts as “donuts” versus “doughnuts,” though the chain could confirm that it has been spelled that way since 1950.

The first Mister Donut opened in Boston in 1955 and expanded to nearly 1,000 locations in the US before its American business was acquired by Dunkin’ Donuts’ parent company in 1990. Today, Mister Donut has a booming business in Asia, with more than 10,000 locations worldwide.

As pointed out by the grammar blogger Grammar Girl, the rise of Dunkin’ Donuts (and, to a lesser degree, Mister Donut), ran parallel to a significant growth of the use of the “donut” spelling since the 1950s, according to Google Books data.

Today, the majority of the top doughnut shops in America sell “donuts,” not “doughnuts,” with names such as Bob’s Donut and Pastry Shop, Sugar Shack Donuts, and The Donut Man. Dunkin’ may have popularized “donut,” but plenty of other chains have been willing to adopt it.

Even Merriam-Webster was forced to add “donut” to the dictionary. According to a National Donut Day post in the dictionary’s Words at Play blog:

“We’ve been encountering the variant donut in published, edited text since the mid-20th century. It was certainly helped along by famous doughnut purveyors — both Dunkin’ and Mister — but in truth they and all who’ve accepted the variant were following in a tradition of phonetic-based spelling reform also embraced by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster …

Our inclusion of donut is based solely on evidence of the variant in a variety of published, edited texts.”

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