A portmanteau (Listeni/pɔrtˈmænt/; plural portmanteaux or portmanteaus) or portmanteau word is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes into one new word.[1][2] A portmanteau word typically combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog.[1][3] More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings.[4] In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph which represents two or more morphemes.[5][6][7][8]


"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."[4] This definition overlaps with the grammatical term contraction, but a distinction can be made between a portmanteau and a contraction by noting that contractions are formed from words that would otherwise appear together in sequence, such as do and not, 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, such as Spanish and English, into Spanglish.


The word "portmanteau" was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871),[4] in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky,[9] where "slithy" means "lithe and slimy" and "mimsy" is "flimsy and miserable". Humpty Dumpty explains the practice of combining words in various ways by telling Alice,

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

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, but leave it unsettled which you will say first ... if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say "frumious".[9]

The term "portmanteau" itself was converted by Carroll to describe the concept. The etymology "portmanteau" is derived from French porter, to carry and manteau, cloak (from Old French mantel, from Latin mantellum).[10] In then-contemporary English, a portmanteau was a suitcase. 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.


Standard EnglishEdit

File:The Gerry-Mander Edit.png

Many neologisms are examples of blends, but many blends have become part of the lexicon.[9] In Punch in 1896, the word brunch (breakfast + lunch) was introduced as a "portmanteau word".[11] 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.

"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. Bardolatry, a portmanteau of "the bard" and "idolatry," means excessive worship of William Shakespeare and his works.

Some city names are portmanteaux of the regions they straddle: Texarkana spreads across the Texas-Arkansas border near Louisiana, 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. The fictional town Pontypandy in the animated series Fireman Sam is portmanteau of Pontypridd and Tonypandy, 2 towns in the Welsh valleys where the show is set.

A scientific example a liger, which is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger (a tiglon or tigon is a similar cross in which the male is a tiger). The business world is filled with newly invented portmanteau words such as "permalance" (permanent freelance) and "advertainment" (advertising as entertainment), to name a few.

Brand names Edit

Perhaps one of the most well-known companies whose name is a portmanteau is Microsoft, a portmanteau of microcomputer and software. "Comcast" is a portmanteau of "communication" and "broadcast". "Cinemax" is a portmanteau of "cinema" and "maximum". "Verizon" is a portmanteau of "veritas" and "horizon." "Panera" is a portmanteau of "pan," the Latin word for bread, and "era," the Latin word for time. "Accenture" is often explained as a portmanteau of "accent" and "future." Similarly "Finacle", for a retail banking product of Infosys, is a portmanteau of the words "Financial Pinnacle.", Infosys itself being a portmanteau of the words "information" and "systems". The flavor of the cheese "Cambozola" combines a similar rind to "Camembert" with the same mold used to make "Gorgonzola." A brand of water softening solution, "Calgon" is a portmanteau of the words "calcium" and "gone." Passenger rail company "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of "America" and "track". "Zillow" is a portmanteau of "zillions" of data and "pillows". "Velcro" is a portmanteau of the French "Velours" (velvet) and "Crochet" (hook), so named by its inventor who noticed seed burrs clinging to tiny loops of fabric on his trousers.

Non-standard EnglishEdit


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 fork. A skort is an item of clothing that is part skirt, part shorts. The Pegacorn or a Unipeg is a fantasy creature that combines Pegasus and unicorn to describe a winged unicorn. In 2009, the term jeggings was coined to describe a pair of pants with the appearance of denim jeans, but the stretchiness of leggings. Portmanteaux are also commonly utilized in avant-garde scientific and literary theory; the word "stragmatics," for example, is increasingly employed in the context of posthuman factors research to address the strategic pragmatics of pragmatic strategies (i.e., strategies that are intrinsically realized by being arrived at by pragmatic means). In the game Minecraft there is an animal called "Mooshroom", a combination of "moo", the sound of a cow, and mushroom.

"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 portmanteaux 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'?"[12]Template:Verify credibility

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

In the comic strip Li'l Abner, the central characters' surname, Yokum, is a portmanteau of the words yokel and hokum.

Turducken is a dish made by inserting a chicken 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.

Refudiate, coined by Sarah Palin from refute and repudiate, was recognized as the New Oxford American Dictionary's "Word of the Year" in 2010.[13] Stagflation is a combination of a stagnant economy with inflation.

In music fandom, the word stan, which came into use after rapper Eminem released a song with the same name, is a portmanteau of stalker and fan.

On the TV Show 30 Rock, Tina Fey created the word "snart" which combines "sneeze" and "fart" and describes the action of a simultaneous occurrence. This appeared in approximately February 2011 on NBC.

Comedian Tim Allen described an exceedingly deep belch which could result in partially regurgitating as a "vomit-burp", immediately calling it a "vurp".


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.[14] 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."[15] 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 Robsten, real life couple from The Twilight Saga (film series) (Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart), Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), and TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes). "Desilu Productions" was a Los Angeles, California-based company jointly owned by couple and actors Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. In double-barreled names, the hyphen is almost pushing one name away from the other.[15] Meshing says "I am you and you are me," notes one expert.[15]

Other languagesEdit


Several Chinese province names are portmanteau words: Anhui is a contraction of Anqing and Huizhou, Fujian is a contraction of Fuzhou and Jianzhou (ancient name of Jian'ou), Gansu is a contraction of Ganzhou and Suzhou, and Jiangsu is a contraction of Jiangning (ancient name of Nanjing) and Suzhou.

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.


Despite its French etymology (modern spelling: porte-manteau), portmanteau is not used in French in this context. It is indeed a false friend. It refers to a coat stand or coat hook (literally a "coat carrier"), but in the past it could also mean "suitcase". It was in this context that it first came to its English use, and the metaphorical use for a linguistic phenomenon (putting one word inside another, as into a case) is an English coinage. The French linguistic term mot-valise, literally a "suitcase-word", is a relatively recent back-translation from English, attested only since 1970.

Although French is less flexible than English, it produced a number of portmanteau words such as franglais (frenglish) or courriel (courrier électronique = email) and has used the technique in literature (Boris Vian) or to create brands : Transilien (Transports franciliens = Île-de-France transportation system)[16].


Kofferwort, a German synonym for portmanteau, is a recent literal translation of French mot-valise, attested since 1983. However the phenomenon is well known in German poetry. Heinrich Heine is believed to have coined over 60 portmanteaux.[17] A modern example is ‘Teuro’, combining ‘teuer’ and ‘Euro’.

Modern HebrewEdit

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 Jewish-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 (midrakhov, (pedestrian) promenade), from מדרכה (midrakha, footpath) and רחוב (rekhov, 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, arukhat boker, breakfast]), and צהריים (tsohorayim, noon), (i.e., lunch [cf. ארוחת צהריים, arukhat tsohorayim, lunch]).[18]
  • מגדלור (migdalor, lighthouse), from מגדל (migdal, tower) and אור (or, light)
  • קניון (kanyon, shopping mall), from קניות (keniyot, shopping) and חניון (khanyon, parking)
  • רמזור (ramzor, traffic light), from רמז (remez, signal) and אור (or, light)


Common name like 'Mahesh' meaning a great ruler, is composed of two words Maha (great) + Ish (God), combined by the rules of Sanskrit sandhi. However unlike other languages, sandhi in Sanskrit follows strict grammar rules and is a well formed system from the very beginning of Sanskrit. 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 (the Hindi-speaking regions of) India, where they mix Hindi and English in the spoken language.

Another modern day example is the BrahMos missile, whose name is a portmanteau of two rivers, Brahmaputra and Moskva.


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 ("oracle or seeress").[19]


Indonesian has many portmanteau words:

In slang:

  • Mafia = matematika + fisika + kimia (mathematics, physics and chemistry)
  • Saltum = salah kostum ('wrong costume'), i.e. inappropriate dress
  • Caper = cari perhatian ('searching for attention')
  • Maho = manusia ('human') + homosexual; this term is commonly used as a joke as LGBT in Indonesia is a very problematic thing, and many still regard it as a mental illness.
  • Warteg = Warung + Tegal, an area in Indonesia
  • Alay = anak ('kid') + either lebay (excessive, cheesy) or layangan ('kite')
  • Ropang ('toast') = roti ('bread') + panggang ('roasted' or 'toasted')
  • Kanker (literally 'cancer') is also slang for 'out of money', from kantong ('pocket') + kering ('dry')
  • Nasgor ('fried rice') = nasi ('rice') + goreng ('fried')


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; 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?).[21] Gojira (ゴジラ?), the Japanese name for Godzilla, is a combination of the Japanese words gorira (ゴリラ?, "gorilla"), and kujira (鯨(クジラ)?, "whale"). The monster was given this general description in the early planning stages of the first film. Though the character's final appearance was much different, the name remained.[22]

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 ( kara?) and the English word orchestra (オーケストラ ōkesutora?).

Portmanteau word/morph (linguistics)Edit

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 or more morphemes in one morph. E.g. in the Latin word animalis the ending -is is a portmanteau morph because it is used for two morphemes: the singularity and the genitive case. In English two separate morphs are used (of an animal).

The term may also be extended to include contractions. Examples of such combinations 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
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
Italian a il al
a la alla
a lo allo
a l' all'
a i ai
a gli agli
a le alle
di il del
di la della
di lo dello
di l' dell'
di i dei
di gli degli
di le delle
da il dal
da la dalla
da lo dallo
da l' dall'
da i dai
da gli dagli
da le dalle
Cornish a an a'n
Welsh i yn i'n
West Frisian bist do bisto
yn de yn 'e

This usage has been referred to as "portmanteau morph."[5]

While in Portuguese, French and Spanish the use of the short forms is mandatory, German and Cornish speakers may freely choose the form they use.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Portmanteau". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 21 June 2008. 
  2. "Portmanteau word". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. Retrieved 21 June 2008. 
  3. Script error
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Script error
  5. 5.0 5.1 "What is a portmanteau morph?". LinguaLinks Library. 2003. 
  6. Template:Cite document
  7. Template:Cite document
  8. Template:Cite document
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., and Hyams, N. (2007) An Introduction to Language, Eighth Edition. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 1-4130-1773-8.
  10. "Portmanteau". The word "portmanteau" itself is thus a portmanteau. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
  11. Punch, 1 August 1896, 58/2
  12. "J! Archive - Show 4675, aired 24 December 2004". Retrieved 13 April 2009.  (The clue in question is located under "Double Jeopardy")
  13. "NEW OXFORD AMERICAN DICTIONARY’S 2010 WORD OF THE YEAR IS…". Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  14. Zimmer, Benjamin (1 November 2005). "A perilous portmanteau?". Language Log. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 11 November 2008. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Winterman, Denise (3 August 2006). "What a mesh". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  16. The name also combines the word lien (link)
  17. Almuth Grésillon, La règle et le monstre: le mot-valise - Interrogations sur la langue, à partir d'un corpus de Heinrich Heine, Tübingen 1984, 160-66.
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. "Golput - Schott’s Vocab Blog -". The New York Times. 17 February 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  21. Rosen, Eric. "Japanese loanword accentuation: epenthesis and foot form interacting through edge-interior alignment∗". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  22. Steve Ryfle. Japan's Favorite Mon-Star. ECW Press, 1998. Pg.22

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