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What are Portmanteau Words?

Portmanteau words blend sounds and meanings of two distinct words, creating a new one with a combined definition, like 'brunch' from 'breakfast' and 'lunch'. These linguistic hybrids enrich our language, making expression more succinct and playful. Ever wondered how many you use daily? Discover the fascinating world of portmanteaus and how they shape our communication. What's your favorite portmanteau?
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Portmanteau words, also called blended words or simply portmanteaux, are words that are formed by splicing or merging two other words together. The term portmanteau words comes from Chapter Six of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, in which the character Humpty Dumpty, in explaining the meaning of the word slithy in the poem "Jabberwocky", says: “Well, slithy means 'lithe and slimy.' Lithe is the same as 'active.' You see it's like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word." This is a double joke: first, a portmanteau is a suitcase, in which one would “pack” things, like the multiple meanings within portmanteau words; second, portmanteau is itself a compound word, similar to portmanteau words, in that it is from the French words for "carry" – porter – and "cloak" – manteau.

Portmanteau words have been invented for many different areas of life:

Entertainment

  • Bombay + Hollywood = Bollywood
  • Brad (Pitt) + Angelina (Jolie) = Brangelina
  • cyberspace + magazine = cyberzine
  • education + entertainment = edutainment
  • fan + magazine = fanzine
  • glitter + literati = glitterati

Locations

  • Channel + Tunnel = Chunnel
  • Oxford + Cambridge = Oxbridge
  • North (of) + Little Italy = NoLIta (area of New York City)
  • South (of) + Houston (Street) = SoHo (area of New York City)
  • Triangle + Below + Canal (Street) = TriBeCa (area of New York City)

Weather

Events

  • talk + marathon = talkathon
  • telephone + marathon = telethon

Government

  • medical + care = Medicare
  • parachute + troops = paratroops

Food

  • beef + buffalo = beefalo
  • breakfast + lunch = brunch
  • clam + tomato = Clamato
  • plum + apricot = pluot
  • tangerine + pomelo = tangelo

Place

  • cafeteria + auditorium = cafetorium
  • motor + hotel = motel

Adjective

  • gigantic + enormous = ginormous
  • man + fantastic = mantastic

Technological Equipment

  • camera + recorder = camcorder
  • breath + analyzer = breathalyzer

Internet Use

Many words related to blogging and other modern technology usage are portmanteau words:

  • web + log = blog
  • iPod + broadcasting = podcasting
  • blog + broadcast = blogcast
  • blog + spam advertising (or) marketing = blam
  • blog + beg (for contributions) = bleg
  • blog + biosphere = blogosphere
  • fake + blog = flog
  • mobile (generated) + blog = moblog
  • forage + video (on the Internet) = vorage
  • school (friends) + Google = Schoogle
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to LanguageHumanities about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Learn more...
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to LanguageHumanities about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

pistachios

Portmanteau words are used to describe various sections of Mobile, Alabama. Midtown Mobile is often abbreviated as MiMo (midtown + mobile). LoDa describes the area of the city that South Dauphin Street cuts through (Lower + Dauphin = LoDa). WeMo is a portmanteau used to describe West Mobile (West + Mobile = WeMo).

USBcable

Target often carries a fruit that has a Portmanteau name. The grapple is a combination of the words "grape" and "apple." This type of fruit is particularly interesting as it looks like a typical red apple but has the flavor of a grape.

rockyraccoon

A very popular Portmanteau used on television and magazines is "Bromance."

This word is used to describe guy friends who are extremely close and spend large amounts of time together.

The word is essentially Brothers + Romance = Bromance. While the word seems to imply some sort of homosexual relationship, in pop culture it a term for two or more male best friends. A good example of a "bromance" can be witnessed on the show "Entourage."

anon72481

another common one is the combined genre of pop and rock music: poprock or prock.

anon39446

A Portmanteau not listed but used here in the South is "Prooming" -

Pet + Grooming = Prooming.

More and more widely used since more people are treating their pets

like members of the family.

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    • The word motel is a portmanteau of "motor" and "hotel.".
      The word motel is a portmanteau of "motor" and "hotel.".
    • The word podcast is a portmanteau of iPod and broadcast.
      By: pizuttipics
      The word podcast is a portmanteau of iPod and broadcast.
    • Beefalo, a portmanteau of beef and buffalo.
      By: Giovanni Burlini
      Beefalo, a portmanteau of beef and buffalo.
    • Lewis Carroll invented portmanteau words.
      By: National Media Museum
      Lewis Carroll invented portmanteau words.
    • A tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo.
      By: Louella Folsom
      A tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo.
    • Bollywood, the Indian film industry, is a portmanteau of Bombay and Hollywood.
      By: arevhamb
      Bollywood, the Indian film industry, is a portmanteau of Bombay and Hollywood.