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A portmanteau word, or portmanteau ( /pɔːrtˈmænt/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ), /ˌpɔːrtmænˈt/ ) is a blend of words [1] in which parts of multiple words are combined into a new word, [1] [2] [3] as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog, [2] [4] or motel, from motor and hotel. [5] In linguistics, a portmanteau is a single morph that is analyzed as representing two (or more) underlying morphemes. [6] [7] [8] [9] When portmanteaus shorten established compounds, they can be considered clipped compounds. [10]


A portmanteau word is similar to a contraction , but contractions are formed from words that would otherwise appear together in sequence, such as do and not to make don't, whereas a portmanteau is formed by combining two or more existing words that all relate to a single concept. A portmanteau also differs from a compound, which does not involve the truncation of parts of the stems of the blended words. For instance, starfish is a compound, not a portmanteau, of star and fish, as it includes both words in full. If it were called a "stish" or a "starsh", it would be a portmanteau.


The word portmanteau was introduced in this sense by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871), [11] where Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of unusual words used in "Jabberwocky". [12] Slithy means "slimy and lithe" and mimsy means "miserable and flimsy". Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the practice of combining words in various ways:

You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.

In his introduction to his 1876 poem The Hunting of the Snark , Carroll again uses portmanteau when discussing lexical selection: [12]

Humpty Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all. For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious". Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first … if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say "frumious".

In then-contemporary English, a portmanteau was a suitcase that opened into two equal sections. According to the OED Online, a portmanteau is a "case or bag for carrying clothing and other belongings when travelling; (originally) one of a form suitable for carrying on horseback; (now esp.) one in the form of a stiff leather case hinged at the back to open into two equal parts". [13] According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (AHD), the etymology of the word is the French porte-manteau, from porter, "to carry", and manteau, "cloak" (from Old French mantel, from Latin mantellum). [14] According to the OED Online, the etymology of the word is the "officer who carries the mantle of a person in a high position (1507 in Middle French), case or bag for carrying clothing (1547), clothes rack (1640)". [13] In modern French, a porte-manteau is a clothes valet, a coat-tree or similar article of furniture for hanging up jackets, hats, umbrellas and the like. [15] [16] [17]

An occasional synonym for "portmanteau word" is frankenword, an autological word exemplifying the phenomenon it describes, blending "Frankenstein" and "word". [18]

Examples in English

The original Gerrymander pictured in an 1812 cartoon. The word is a portmanteau of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry's name with salamander. The Gerry-Mander Edit.png
The original Gerrymander pictured in an 1812 cartoon. The word is a portmanteau of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry's name with salamander .

Many neologisms are examples of blends, but many blends have become part of the lexicon. [12] In Punch in 1896, the word brunch (breakfast + lunch) was introduced as a "portmanteau word". [19] In 1964, the newly independent African republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar chose the portmanteau word Tanzania as its name. Similarly Eurasia is a portmanteau of Europe and Asia.

Some city names are portmanteaus of the border regions they straddle: Texarkana spreads across the Texas-Arkansas-Louisiana border, while Calexico and Mexicali are respectively the American and Mexican sides of a single conurbation. A scientific example is a liger , which is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger (a tigon is a similar cross in which the male is a tiger).

Many company or brand names are portmanteaus, including Microsoft, a portmanteau of microcomputer and software; the cheese Cambozola combines a similar rind to Camembert with the same mould used to make Gorgonzola ; passenger rail company Amtrak , a portmanteau of America and track ; Velcro , a portmanteau of the French velours (velvet) and crochet (hook); Verizon , a portmanteau of veritas (Latin for truth) and horizon; and ComEd (a Chicago-area electric utility company), a portmanteau of Commonwealth and Edison .

Jeoportmanteau! is a recurring category on the American television quiz show Jeopardy! The category's name is itself a portmanteau of the words Jeopardy and portmanteau. Responses in the category are portmanteaus constructed by fitting two words together.

Portmanteau words may be produced by joining proper nouns with common nouns, such as "gerrymandering", which refers to the scheme of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry for politically contrived redistricting; the perimeter of one of the districts thereby created resembled a very curvy salamander in outline. The term gerrymander has itself contributed to portmanteau terms bjelkemander and playmander.

Oxbridge is a common portmanteau for the UK's two oldest universities, those of Oxford and Cambridge. In 2016, Britain's planned exit from the European Union became known as "Brexit".

A spork Spork.jpg
A spork

Many portmanteau words receive some use but do not appear in all dictionaries. For example, a spork is an eating utensil that is a combination of a spoon and a fork, and a skort is an item of clothing that is part skirt, part shorts. On the other hand, turducken , a dish made by inserting a chicken into a duck, and the duck into a turkey, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010.

Similarly, the word refudiate was first used by Sarah Palin when she misspoke, conflating the words refute and repudiate. Though initially the word was a gaffe, it was recognized as the New Oxford American Dictionary's "Word of the Year" in 2010. [20]

The business lexicon is replete with newly formed portmanteau words like "permalance" (permanent freelance), "advertainment" (advertising as entertainment), "advertorial" (a blurred distinction between advertising and editorial), "infotainment" (information about entertainment or itself intended to entertain by its manner of presentation), and "infomercial" (informational commercial).

Company and product names may also use portmanteau words: examples include Timex (a portmanteau of Time [referring to Time magazine] and Kleenex), [21] Renault's Twingo (a combination of twist, swing and tango), [22] and Garmin (portmanteau of company founders' first names Gary Burrell and Min Kao).


Two proper names can also be used in creating a portmanteau word in reference to the partnership between people, especially in cases where both persons are well-known, or sometimes to produce epithets such as "Billary" (referring to former United States president Bill Clinton and his wife, former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). In this example of recent American political history, the purpose for blending is not so much to combine the meanings of the source words but "to suggest a resemblance of one named person to the other"; the effect is often derogatory, as linguist Benjamin Zimmer states. [23] For instance, Putler is used by critics of Vladimir Putin, merging his name with Adolf Hitler. By contrast, the public, including the media, use portmanteaus to refer to their favorite pairings as a way to "...giv[e] people an essence of who they are within the same name." [24] This is particularly seen in cases of fictional and real-life "supercouples". An early known example, Bennifer, referred to film stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Other examples include Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) and TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes). [24]

"Desilu Productions" was a Los Angeles–based company jointly owned by actor couple Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Miramax is the combination of the first names of the parents of the Weinstein brothers. On Wednesday, 28 June 2017, The New York Times crossword included the quip, "How I wish Natalie Portman dated Jacques Cousteau, so I could call them 'Portmanteau'". [25]

Holidays are another example, as in Thanksgivukkah, a portmanteau neologism given to the convergence of the American holiday of Thanksgiving and the first day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah on Thursday, 28 November 2013. [26] [27] Chrismukkah is another pop-culture portmanteau neologism popularized by the TV drama The O.C. , merging of the holidays of Christianity's Christmas and Judaism's Hanukkah.

In the Disney film Big Hero 6 , the film is situated in a fictitious city called "San Fransokyo", which is a portmanteau of two real locations, San Francisco and Tokyo. [28]

Other languages

Modern Hebrew

Modern Hebrew abounds with European mechanisms such as blending. Along with CD, or simply דיסק (disk), Hebrew has the blend תקליטור (taklitor), which consists of תקליט (taklít, 'phonograph record') and אור (or, 'light'). Other blends in Hebrew include the following: [29]

Sometimes the root of the second word is truncated, giving rise to a blend that resembles an acrostic:


A few portmanteaus are in use in modern Irish, for example:


There is a tradition of linguistic purism in Icelandic, and neologisms are frequently created from pre-existing words. For example, tölva 'computer' is a portmanteau of tala 'digit, number' and völva 'oracle, seeress'. [37]


In Indonesian, portmanteaus and acronyms are very common in both formal and informal usage.


In the Malaysian national language of Bahasa Melayu, the word jadong was constructed out of three Malay words for evil (jahat), stupid (bodoh) and arrogant (sombong) to be used on the worst kinds of community and religious leaders who mislead naive, submissive and powerless folk under their thrall.


A very common type of portmanteau in Japanese forms one word from the beginnings of two others (that is, from two back-clippings). [38] The portion of each input word retained is usually two morae, which is tantamount to one kanji in most words written in kanji.

The inputs to the process can be native words, Sino-Japanese words, gairaigo (later borrowings), or combinations thereof. A Sino-Japanese example is the name 東大 (Tōdai) for the University of Tokyo, in full (kyō daigaku). With borrowings, typical results are words such as パソコン (pasokon), meaning personal computer (PC), which despite being formed of English elements does not exist in English; it is a uniquely Japanese contraction of the English personal computer (ナル・コンピュータ, pāsonaru konpyūta). Another example, Pokémon (ポケモン), is a contracted form of the English words pocket (ポケット, poketto) and monsters (モンスター, monsutā). [39] A famous example of a blend with mixed sources is karaoke (カラオケ, karaoke), blending the Japanese word for empty (, kara) and the Greek word orchestra (オーケストラ, ōkesutora). The Japanese fad of egg-shaped keychain pet toys from the 1990s, Tamagotchi, is a portmanteau combining the two Japanese words tamago (たまご), which means "egg", and uotchi (ウオッチ) "watch". The portmanteau can also be seen as a combination of tamago (たまご), "egg", and tomodachi (友だち), which means "friend".

Some titles also are portmanteaus, such as Hetalia (ヘタリア). It came from Hetare (ヘタレ), which means "idiot", and Italia (イタリア) which means Italy. Another example is Servamp , which came from the English words Servant (サーヴァント) and Vampire (ヴァンパイア).


In Brazilian Portuguese, portmanteaus are usually slang, including:

In European Portuguese, portmanteaus are also used. Some of them include:


Although not very common in Spanish, portmanteaus are finding their way into the language mainly through marketing and media efforts, such as in Mexican Spanish cafebrería from cafetería 'coffee shop' and librería 'bookstore', or teletón 'telethon' from televisión and maratón. However, it is very frequent in commercial brands of any type (for instance, "chocolleta", from "chocolate" + "galleta", (cookie), and above all family-owned business (of small size, for instance: Rocar, from "Roberto" + "Carlos", and Mafer, from "María" + "Fernanda"). Such usages are prompted by the registering of a distinguishable trademark, but with time, commonly, a specific trademark became the name of the all similar products, like in Cola Cao, a name which is very common to use to refer any similar product.

Other examples:

A somewhat popular example in Spain is the word gallifante, [49] a portmanteau of gallo y elefante (cockerel and elephant). It was the prize on the Spanish version of the children TV show Child's Play (Spanish : Juego de niños ) that ran on the public television channel La 1 of Televisión Española (TVE) from 1988 to 1992. [50]

Portmanteau morph

In linguistics, a blend is an amalgamation or fusion of independent lexemes, while a portmanteau or portmanteau morph is a single morph that is analyzed as representing two (or more) underlying morphemes. [6] For example, in the Latin word animalis, the ending -is is a portmanteau morph because it is used for two morphemes: the singular number and the genitive case.[ citation needed ] In English, two separate morphs are used: of an animal. Other examples include French: à le au [o] and de le du [dy] . [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

In linguistics, a false friend is either of two words in different languages that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning. Examples include English embarrassed and Spanish embarazada 'pregnant'; English parents versus Portuguese parentes and Italian parenti ; English demand and French demander 'ask'; and English gift, German Gift 'poison', and Norwegian gift 'married'.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">H</span> Letter of the Latin alphabet

H, or h, is the eighth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is aitch, or regionally haitch.

A lexicon is the vocabulary of a language or branch of knowledge. In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word lexicon derives from Greek word λεξικόν, neuter of λεξικός meaning 'of or for words'.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Loanword</span> Word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language

A loanword is a word permanently adopted from one language and incorporated into another language without translation. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an etymological origin, and calques, which involve translation. Loanwords from languages with different scripts are usually transliterated, but they are not translated. Additionally, loanwords may be adapted to phonology, phonotactics, orthography, and morphology of the target language. When a loanword is fully adapted to the rules of the target language, it is distinguished from native words of the target language only by its origin. However, often the adaptation is incomplete, so loanwords may conserve specific features distinguishing them from native words of the target language: loaned phonemes and sound combinations, partial or total conserving of the original spelling, foreign plural or case forms or indeclinability.

A neologism is a relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not been fully accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often driven by changes in culture and technology. In the process of language formation, neologisms are more mature than protologisms. A word whose development stage is between that of the protologism and neologism is a prelogism.

In linguistics, code-switching or language alternation occurs when a speaker alternates between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation or situation. Multilinguals sometimes use elements of multiple languages when conversing with each other. Thus, code-switching is the use of more than one linguistic variety in a manner consistent with the syntax and phonology of each variety. There are several different reasons why code-switching is beneficial which are listed below in addition to different types of code switching and theories behind it.

Hiberno-Latin, also called Hisperic Latin, was a learned style of literary Latin first used and subsequently spread by Irish monks during the period from the sixth century to the tenth century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Denglisch</span> Mixture of German and English languages

Denglisch is a term describing the increased use of anglicisms and pseudo-anglicisms in the German language. It is a portmanteau of the German words Deutsch (German) and Englisch. The term is first recorded from 1965.

An anglicism is a word or construction borrowed from English by another language.

An auto-antonym or autantonym, also called a contronym or antagonym among other terms, is a word with multiple meanings (senses) of which one is the reverse of another. For example, the word cleave can mean "to cut apart" or "to bind together". This phenomenon is called enantiosemy, enantionymy, antilogy or autantonymy. An enantiosemic term is necessarily polysemic.

Etymology is the study of the history of the form of words and, by extension, the origin and evolution of their semantic meaning across time. It is a subfield of historical linguistics, and draws upon comparative semantics, morphology, semiotics, and phonetics.

The Greek language has contributed to the English lexicon in five main ways:

Phono-semantic matching (PSM) is the incorporation of a word into one language from another, often creating a neologism, where the word's non-native quality is hidden by replacing it with phonetically and semantically similar words or roots from the adopting language. Thus, the approximate sound and meaning of the original expression in the source language are preserved, though the new expression in the target language may sound native.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Puerto Rican Spanish</span> Spanish language as characteristically spoken by Puerto Ricans

Puerto Rican Spanish is the variety of the Spanish language as characteristically spoken in Puerto Rico and by millions of people of Puerto Rican descent living in the United States and elsewhere. It belongs to the group of Caribbean Spanish variants and, as such, is largely derived from Canarian Spanish and Andalusian Spanish. Outside of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican accent of Spanish is also commonly heard in the US Virgin Islands and many US mainland cities like Orlando, New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Tampa, Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago, among others. However, not all stateside Puerto Ricans have knowledge of Spanish. Opposite to island-born Puerto Ricans who primarily speak Spanish, many stateside-born Puerto Ricans primarily speak English.

Ulithian is the language spoken on Ulithi Atoll and neighboring islands. Ulithian is one of the six official languages of the Federated States of Micronesia. There are some 3,000 speakers, although only 700 of these live on Ulithi Atoll.

In linguistics, word formation is an ambiguous term that can refer to either:

In linguistics, a blend is a word formed from parts of two or more other words. At least one of these parts is not a morph but instead a mere splinter, a fragment that is normally meaningless:

In words such as motel, boatel and Lorry-Tel, hotel is represented by various shorter substitutes – ‑otel, ‑tel or ‑el – which I shall call splinters. Words containing splinters I shall call blends.

<i>Collins English Dictionary</i> Printed and online dictionary of English, published by HarperCollins in Glasgow

The Collins English Dictionary is a printed and online dictionary of English. It is published by HarperCollins in Glasgow.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Portmanteau (luggage)</span> Type of leather travelling bag

A portmanteau is a piece of luggage, usually made of leather and opening into two equal parts. Some are large, upright, and hinged at the back and enable hanging up clothes in one half, while others are much smaller bags with two equally sized compartments.

In linguistics, a libfix is a productive bound morpheme affix created by rebracketing and back-formation, often a generalization of a component of a blended or portmanteau word. For example, walkathon was coined in 1932 as a blend of walk and marathon, and soon thereafter the -athon part was reinterpreted as a libfix morpheme meaning "event or activity lasting a long time or involving a great deal of something". Words formed with this suffix include talkathon, telethon, hackathon, and so on. Affixes whose morpheme boundaries are etymologically based and which are used in their original sense, are not libfixes.


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