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A portmanteau (pronounced /pɔrtˈmæntoʊ/  ( listen), plural: portmanteaus or portmanteaux) or portmanteau word is a blend of two (or more) words or morphemes and their meanings into one new word.[1][2][3] In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single c section which represents two or more morphemes.[4][5][6][7]



"Portmanteau word" is used to describe a linguistic blend, namely "a word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings."[1] This definition overlaps with the grammatical term contraction. As an example of the latter, the words do and not become the contraction don't, a single word that represents the meaning of the combined words. A distinction can be made between the portmanteau and a contraction by noting that contractions can only be formed with two words that would otherwise appear in sequence within the sentence, whereas a portmanteau word is typically formed by combining two or more existing words that all relate to a singular concept which the portmanteau word is meant to describe. An example is the well-known portmanteau word "Spanglish", referring to speaking a mix of both Spanish and English spoken between bilingual people. In this case, there is no logical situation in which the speaker would say "Spanish English" in place of the portmanteau word in the same way they could say "do not" in place of the contraction "don't", or "we are" in place of "we're".


Examples of "portmanteau" in this sense appeared in Lewis Carroll's book Through the Looking-Glass (1871),[1] in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky,[8] where "slithy" means "lithe and slimy" and "mimsy" is "flimsy and miserable". Humpty Dumpty tries to justify his habit of changing the meaning of words and combining them in various ways by telling Alice,

'When I use a word... it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master—that's all.'

In his introduction to The Hunting of the Snark, Carroll uses "portmanteau" when discussing lexical selection:

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 ... you will say "frumious".[8]

The word "portmanteau" itself was converted by Carroll to describe the concept. "Portmanteau" comes from French porter, to carry + manteau, cloak (from Old French mantel, from Latin mantellum).[9] In then-contemporary English, a portmanteau was a suitcase. In modern French, a portemanteau (or porte-manteaux) is a clothes valet, a coat-tree or similar article of furniture for hanging up jackets, hats, umbrellas and the like.


Standard English

File:The Gerry-Mander
The original "Gerrymander" pictured in an 1812 cartoon. The word is a portmanteau of Massachusetts Governor Gerry's name, with "salamander"

Many neologisms are examples of blends, but many blends have become part of the lexicon.[8] In Punch in 1896, the word brunch (breakfast + lunch) was introduced as a "portmanteau word".[10] The word "smog" was coined around 1893 or 1905 as a portmanteau of "smoke" and "fog". In 1964, the newly independent African republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar chose the portmanteau word Tanzania as its name.

"Wikipedia" is an example of a portmanteau; it combines the word "wiki" with the word "encyclopedia".

Portmanteau words may be produced by joining together proper nouns with common nouns, such as "gerrymandering", which refers to the scheme of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry for politically contrived redistricting: one of the districts created resembled a salamander in outline.

Some city names are portmanteaux of the regions they straddle: Texarkana spreads across the Texas-Arkansas border, while Calexico and Mexicali are respectively the American and Mexican sides of a single conurbation. Kentuckiana, while generally used to specifically describe the Louisville metropolitan area, is also used (although a bit more lightly) to describe the entire stretch of the Ohio Valley in the adjoining states of Indiana and Kentucky.

Brand names

"Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "track". "Conrail" is a portmanteau of the words "consolidated" and "rail". "FedEx" portmanteaus "federal" and "express"; "AmEx" is a portmanteau of the word "American" and "Express", although these may well be thought of as mere contractions. "Verizon" is a portmanteau of "veritas" and "horizon". "Accenture" often explained as a portmanteau of "accent" and "future".

Non-standard English

]] Many portmanteau words receive some usage but do not (yet) appear in all dictionaries. For example, a spork is an eating utensil that is a combination of a spoon and fork. A skort is an item of clothing that is part skirt, part shorts. The Pegacorn is a creature that is combined with pegasus and unicorn. Another creature that is part lion and part tiger is a liger or a tigon. Jean shorts are jorts and jean hats are jats. In 2009, the term jeggings was coined to describe a pair of pants with the appearance of denim, but the stretchiness of leggings.

"Jeoportmanteau!" is a recurring category on the American television quiz show Jeopardy!. The category's name is itself a portmanteau of "Jeopardy" and "portmanteau". Responses in the category are portmanteaus constructed by fitting two words together. For example, the clue "Brett Favre or John Elway plus a knapsack" yielded the response "What is a 'quarterbackpack'?"[11][unreliable source?]

Blaxploitation is a film genre/style, whose name derives from a portmanteau of "black" and "exploitation", reflecting its main theme of social problems, along with the stereotypical depiction of Black people in film.

Turducken is a cooking technique where chicken is inserted into a duck, and thence into a turkey. In this way, the food reflects the portmanteau nature of the name. The word "turducken" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010.


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, United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham 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 notes.[12] In contrast, the public and even the media use portmanteaux to refer to their favorite pairings as a way to "...giv[e] people an essence of who they are within the same name."[13] This is particularly seen in cases of fictional and real-life "supercouples". An early and well-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). In double-barreled names, the hyphen is almost pushing one name away from the other.[13] Meshing says "I am you and you are me," notes one expert.[13]

Portmanteaux can also be created by attaching a prefix or suffix from one word to give that association to other words. Subsequent to the Watergate scandal, it became popular to attach the suffix "-gate" to other words to describe contemporary scandals, e.g. "Filegate" for the White House FBI files controversy, Nipplegate, and Spygate, an incident involving the 2007 New England Patriots. Likewise, the suffix "-holism" or "-holic", taken from the word "alcoholism" or "alcoholic", can be added to a noun, creating a word that describes an addiction to that noun. Chocoholic, for instance, means a person who is "addicted" to chocolate. Also, the suffix "-athon" is often appended to other words to connote a similarity to a marathon (for example, telethon, phonathon, and walkathon). Adding the prefix "e-" to a noun indicates that it is related to computers (such as "e-mail" and "e-learning").

Contemporary portmanteaux include Bridezilla (a marriage of the words "bride" and "Godzilla" to describe a demanding bride-to-be) and "Gleek" (from "glee" and "geek", and signifying a fan of the television series Glee). Another example is fans of the Twilight film series, coined "Twi-Hards", and originating from "Twilight" and "Die-hard", or "Twilight" and "Try-hard".

Other languages


Two commonly used French words such as toujours and aujourd'hui are portmanteaux of the parts that define them. Example: toujours means always, from tous meaning all, and jours meaning days; Aujourd'hui comes from au + jour + de + hui, which means today (to the day of today, literally).

In french, portmanteau is said mot-valise (translated as suitcase-word, putting one word into another), while porte-manteau is actually a coat stand (NOT a coat hanger)

Modern Hebrew

Modern Hebrew abounds with European mechanisms such as blending: "Along with קומפקט דיסק (kompaktdisk, compact disc), Hebrew has the blend תקליטור (taklitor), which consists of the Hebrew-descent תקליט (taklít, record) and אור (or, light). Modern Hebrew is full of portmanteau blends, such as:

  • ערפיח (arpiakh, smog), from ערפל (arafel, fog) and פיח (piakh, soot)
  • מדרחוב (midrahov, (pedestrian) promenade), from מדרכה (midrakha, footpath) and רחוב (rehov, street)
  • מחזמר (makhazemer, musical), from מחזה (makhazeh, play [noun]) and זמר (zémer, song)
  • בוהוריים (bohorayim, brunch), from בוקר (boker, morning) (i.e., breakfast [cf. ארוחת בוקר, aruhat boker, breakfast]), and צהריים (tsohorayim, noon), (i.e., lunch [cf. ארוחת צהריים, aruhat tsohorayim, lunch]).[14]

There is also the uncommonly used, politically incorrect term אשלב (ashlav), which is a combination of אשפה (ashpah, trash) and לבן (lavan, white).


There is a tradition of linguistic purism in Icelandic, and neologisms are frequently created from pre-existing words. Tölva ("computer") is a portmanteau of tala ("digit; number") and völva ("seeress").[15]


Indonesian has many portmanteau words. Golput is used to refer to voters who abstain from voting, from Golongan Putih, "blank party" or "white party".[16] Jagorawi is the motorway that links the cities of Jakarta, Bogor and Ciawi.


There are many examples of borrowed word blends in Japanese. The word パソコン (pasokon?), meaning PC, as in personal computer, is not officially an English loan word. The word does not exist in English; however, it is a uniquely Japanese contraction of the English personal computer (パーソナル・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?).[17]

Sometimes Japanese and English words are blended together. One very famous example, karaoke (カラオケ karaoke?), is the blend of the Japanese word for empty (空っぽ karappo?) and the English word orchestra (オーケストラ ōkesutora?).


Common name like 'Mahesh' meaning Great God, is composed of two words Maha (Great) + Ish (God), combined by the rules of Sanskrit sandhi. There are many examples of borrowed word blends in Hindi. Another word common in both Hindi and English is Hinglish, which refers to the vernacular of the people in India, where they mix Hindi and English in the spoken language.


In 1927 the city of Wuhan, capital of the Hubei Province, was created by merging the three cities of Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang into one city.

Portmanteau morph

In linguistics, the term blend is used to refer to general combination of words, and the term "portmanteau" is reserved for the narrow sense of combining two function words. Examples of such combination include

Language Combination Portmanteau
Portuguese de o do
a aquele àquele
de ela dela
em um num
French à le au
à les aux
de le du
de les des
si il s'il
German in das ins
in dem im
zu dem zum
zu der zur
Irish de an den
do an don
Spanish a el al
de el del

This usage has been referred to as "portmanteau morph".[4].

While in french the use of the short forms is mandatory, German speakers may freely chose the form they use.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Oxford English Dictionary, Portmanteau definition 4b, giving Carroll as first user, second usage appearing in 1882 in the Cornhill Magazine
  2. ^ "Portmanteau". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 21 June 2008. 
  3. ^ "Portmanteau word". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. Retrieved 21 June 2008. 
  4. ^ a b "What is a portmanteau morph?". LinguaLinks Library. 2003. 
  5. ^ Thomas, David (1983). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator An invitation to grammar]. Summer Institute of Linguistics. Bangkok: Mahidol University. p. 9 
  6. ^ Crystal, David (1985). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics] (2nd ed.). New York: Basil Blackwell. pp. 237 
  7. ^ Hartmann, R.R.K.; Stork, F.C. (1972). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator Dictionary of language and linguistics]. London: Applied Science. pp. 180 
  8. ^ a b c Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., and Hyams, N. (2007) An Introduction to Language, Eighth Edition. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 1-4130-1773-8.
  9. ^ "Portmanteau". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
  10. ^ Punch, 1 August 1896, 58/2
  11. ^ "J! Archive - Show 4675, aired 24 December 2004". Retrieved 13 April 2009.  (The clue in question is located under "Double Jeopardy")
  12. ^ Zimmer, Benjamin (1 November 2005). "A perilous portmanteau?". Language Log. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 11 November 2008. 
  13. ^ a b c Winterman, Denise (3 August 2006). "What a mesh". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  14. ^ See p. 62 in Zuckermann, Ghil'ad, Hybridity versus Revivability: Multiple Causation, Forms and Patterns. In Journal of Language Contact, Varia 2 (2009), pp. 40-67
  15. ^ Kristján Árnason; Sigrún Helgadóttir (1991), "Terminology and Icelandic Language Policy", Behovet och nyttan av terminologiskt arbete på 90-talet, Nordterm 5, Nordterm-symposium, pp. 7-21
  16. ^ "Golput - Schott’s Vocab Blog -". The New York Times. 17 February 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  17. ^ []


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

WOTD - 8 March 2007    



Wikipedia has an article on:


Alternative spellings


Etymology 1

From French portemanteau, literally porte (carry) + manteau (coat)



portmanteaus or portmanteaux

portmanteau (plural portmanteaus or portmanteaux)

  1. A large travelling case usually made of leather, and opening into two equal sections.
    • 1667, Charles Croke, Fortune's Uncertainty:
      Rodolphus therefore finding such an earnest Invitation, embrac'd it with thanks, and with his Servant and Portmanteau, went to Don Juan's; where they first found good Stabling for their Horses, and afterwards as good Provision for themselves.

Etymology 2

Coined by Lewis Carrol in Through The Looking Glass to describe the words he coined in Jabberwocky.



portmanteaus or portmanteaux

portmanteau (plural portmanteaus or portmanteaux)

  1. (linguistics) A portmanteau word.


portmanteau (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. (used only before a noun, of a word, story, etc.) Made by combining two words, stories, etc., in the manner of a linguistic portmanteau.
  • 2002, Nicholas Lezard, Spooky tales by the master and friends in The Guardian (London) (December 14, 2002) page 30:
    The overall narrator of this portmanteau story - for Dickens co-wrote it with five collaborators on his weekly periodical, All the Year Round - expresses deep, rational scepticism about the whole business of haunting.
  • 2002, Nick Bradshaw, One day in September in Time Out (December 11, 2002) Page 71:
    We're so bombarded with images, it's a struggle to preserve our imaginations.' In response, he's turned to cinema, commissioning 11 film-makers to contribute to a portmanteau film, entitled '11'09"01' and composed of short films each running 11 minutes, nine seconds and one frame.

Derived terms

See also

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 27, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Portmanteau, which are similar to those in the above article.

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