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How Is a Portmanteau Created?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

It is actually fairly simple for anyone to create a portmanteau, though some care should be taken by anyone wishing to make one that is truly noteworthy or likely to become part of the general lexicon. A portmanteau is created simply by combining two or more words, or morphemes that are part of words, together to create a new word that has a meaning connected to the original words. Unlike a contraction, however, these words would not appear immediately together otherwise in a sentence. Simple examples of portmanteaus include words such as “smog,” from “smoke” and “fog;” or “Internet,” from “international” and “network.”

A portmanteau, sometimes also called a “blend,” is a word that is constructed by combining two or more words together. Parts of words, rather than entire words, can also be used to create portmanteaus, though these parts are often complete morphemes that make the original words identifiable. In some respects similar to a contraction, a portmanteau is formed using words that do not naturally appear together within a sentence. A contraction is formed by combining two words that would appear together, such as “can” and “not” into “can’t;” portmanteaus however use words like “smoke” and “fog” that would not naturally appear one after another in most sentences.

Lewis Carroll invented portmanteau words.
Lewis Carroll invented portmanteau words.

Just about any kind of word can be used to create a portmanteau, though nouns are some of the most commonly used words, and adjectives and adverbs are common in some settings. The term “portmanteau” was first utilized to describe this type of word by Lewis Carroll, who used numerous portmanteaus in his poem Jabberwocky. Most of these portmanteaus, however, were created from adjectives and adverbs together, such as “furious” and “fuming” being combined together to create “frumious.” Portmanteaus created from these types of words often end up seeming like nonsensical combinations of sounds, while nouns may form more recognizable words.

The simplest way a portmanteau can be created is through the combination of two words, or parts of two words. “Internet” and “smog” are simple examples of such portmanteaus, though other words like “brunch,” from “breakfast” and “lunch,” and “edutainment,” from “education” and “entertainment,” are also created from such simple combinations. Anyone can create this type of portmanteau, simply by combining two words or parts of two words together, such as an “ordeal” that causes “boredom” being referred to as a “boredeal.” These words are often more appealing or memorable if the sounds created resemble the original words, which is often seen in celebrity couple names that are created as combinations of the names of each person in a relationship.

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    • Lewis Carroll invented portmanteau words.
      By: National Media Museum
      Lewis Carroll invented portmanteau words.