‘Doodad’ – what’s the origin of the word?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: doodad….

Of course, I know that a doodad is an ornamental attachment or decoration or a small article whose common name is unknown or forgotten. (I show some doodads in the photo at the top of this post.) In fact, I just did a search of my own website and discovered I’d used the term myself in a Halloween post in October 2017. See if you can find it!

But when I encountered the word in the very funny novel Standard Deviation by Katharine Heiny, I started to ponder its etymology.

First, here’s how Heiny used the word:

“We come here because they don’t insist on garnish,” Manny said. “It can ruin a whole meal for me if someone puts a little colored doodad on my plate.”

A few minutes of Google research later, I was able to confirm that the word is American and it dates back to 1905. (I’d suspected the American part mainly because of the syllable containing ‘dad’.) But sadly, no source appears to know much more detail than that. Some describe it as a ‘made-up’ word and others compare it to doohicky (meaning the same thing but a slightly more recent variation, dating back to 1914).

Other words in the same category include whatsitwhatnotthingythingamajig, thingamabob, what’s-its-name, whatchamacallit, and whatchacallit. Too bad there’s no way to know where these amusing terms all came from!

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Oct. 18/17.


Scroll to Top