A portmanteau (/pɔːrtˈmæntoʊ/ ( listen),
/ˌpɔːrtmænˈtoʊ/[a][b]) or portmanteau word is a linguistic blend
of words, in which parts of multiple words or their phones (sounds)
are combined into a new word, as in smog, coined by blending
smoke and fog, or motel, from motor and hotel. In
linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph that
represents two or more morphemes.
The definition overlaps with the grammatical term 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 word is formed by combining two or more existing words
that all relate to a singular 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; whereas a hypothetical portmanteau of
star and fish might be stish.
2 Examples in English
2.1 Standard English
2.2 Non-standard English
3 Other languages
3.7 Modern Hebrew
4 Word/morph (linguistics)
5 See also
8 External links
The word portmanteau was first used in this sense by
Lewis Carroll in
Through the Looking-Glass
Through the Looking-Glass (1871), in which Humpty Dumpty
explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in
"Jabberwocky", where slithy means "slimy and lithe" and mimsy is
"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 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."
In then-contemporary English, a portmanteau was a suitcase that opened
into two equal sections. The etymology of the word is the French
porte-manteau, from porter, "to carry", and manteau, "cloak" (from Old
French mantel, from Latin mantellum). 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. It has also been used, especially in Europe, as a
formal description for coat racks from the French words porter (to
carry) and manteau (cloak).
An occasional synonym for "portmanteau word" is frankenword, an
autological word exemplifying the phenomenon it describes, blending
"Frankenstein" and "word".
Examples in English
Main article: List of portmanteaus
The original "Gerrymander" pictured in an 1812 cartoon. The word is a
portmanteau of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry's name with
Many neologisms are examples of blends, but many blends have become
part of the lexicon. In Punch in 1896, the word brunch (breakfast
+ lunch) was introduced as a "portmanteau word." In 1964, the
newly independent African republic of
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 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 or tiglon 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 mold 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 (Thomas
"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 together 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
Oxbridge is a common portmanteau for the UK's two oldest universities,
Oxford and Cambridge.
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
a gaffe, the word was recognized as the New
Dictionary's "Word of the Year" in 2010.
Brexit is a recent (2016) example, referring to Britain's planned exit
from the European Union.
The business lexicon is replete with newly coined 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 virtue of its manner
of presentation), and "infomercial" (informational commercial).
A company name may also be portmanteau (e.g., Timex is a portmanteau
of Time (referring to Time magazine) and Kleenex) as well as a
product name (e.g.,
Renault markets its Twingo, a combination of
twist, swing and tango).
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. By contrast, the public, including 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." 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
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) and
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.
Miramax is the combination of the first names of the
parents of the Weinstein brothers. On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, The
New York Times crossword included the quip, "How I wish Natalie
Portman dated Jacques Cousteau, so I could call them
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
Thursday, 28 November 2013.
In vernacular Arabic, contractions are a pretty common phenomenon, in
which mostly prepositions are added to other words to create a word
with a new meaning. For example, the Hejazi word for "not yet" is
لسع/لسه (lessa/lessaʕ), which is a combination of the words
لـ (li, for) and الساعة (assaʕa,the hour). Other examples in
Hejazi Arabic include:
إيش (ʔēš , what), from أي (ʔay, which) and شيء (šayʔ,
ليش (lēš, why), from لـ (li, for) and أي (ʔay, which) and
شيء (šayʔ, thing).
معليش (maʕlēš, is it ok?/sorry), from ما (mā, nothing) and
عليه (ʕalayh, on him) and شيء (šayʔ, thing).
فين (fēn, where), from في (fī, in) and أين (ʔayn, where).
دحين (daḥēn or daḥīn, now), from ذا (ḏā, this) and
الحين (alḥīn, part of time).
إلين (ʔilēn, until), from إلى (ʔilā, to) and أن (ʔan,
بعدين (baʕdēn, later), from بَعْد (baʕd, after) and
أََيْن (ʔayn, part of time).
علشان/عشان (ʕašān/ʕalašān, because), from على
(ʕalā, on) and شأن (šaʔn, matter).
كمان (kamān, also/more), from كما (kamā as) and أن (ʔan
إيوه (ʔīwa, yes), from إي (ʔī, yes) and و (wa, swear to or
promise by) and الله (allāh, God).[clarification needed]
A few rare or facetious examples would include:
لعم[pronunciation?] from ("naʕm", yes) and ("la", no), implying
you are not sure
متشائل[pronunciation?] ("mutashaʔim", pessimist) and
("mutafaʔil", optimist), the title of a novel published by Emile
Habibi in 1974. The title is translated in English to "The
كهرماء ("kahramaʔ", utilities) coined from كهرباء
("kahrabaʔ", electricity) and ماء ("maʔ", water), the national
utilities company of Qatar
كهرطيسي ("kahratisi", electromagnetic) coined from كهرباء
("kahrabaʔ", electricity) and
In the Bulgarian language, the most common use of portmanteau is as a
part of advertising campaigns. One such example is the word gintuition
(джинтуиция pronounced dzhintuitsia), which is made up from
the words gin and intuition. This one, in particular, is used, not
surprisingly, as a part of a gin commercial. Another example is the
word charomat, which consists of the words чар (the Bulgarian word
for charm) and аромат (meaning aroma), made popular by an ad
about a coffee brand.
Certain portmanteaus in Filipino have come into use to describe
popular combinations of items in a Filipino breakfast. An example of
such a combination order is kankamtuy: an order of kanin (rice),
kamatis (tomatoes) and tuyo (dried fish). Another is tapsi: an order
of tapa and sinangág. Other examples include variations using a silog
suffix, usually some kind of meat served with sinangág and itlog
(egg). The three most commonly seen silogs are tapsilog (having tapa
as the meat portion), tocilog (having tocino as the meat portion), and
longsilog (having longganisa as the meat portion). Other silogs
include hotsilog (with a hot dog), bangsilog (with bangus (milkfish)),
dangsilog (with danggit (rabbitfish)), spamsilog (with Spam), adosilog
(with adobo), chosilog (with chorizo), chiksilog (with chicken),
cornsilog (with corned beef), and litsilog (with lechon/litson). An
establishment that specializes in such meals is called a tapsihan or
The name of a common Filipino mongrel dogs askal is derived from
Tagalog words "asong kalye" or "street dog" because these dogs are
commonly seen in streets. Askals are also called "aspins", a
combination of "asong Pinoy" or "Philippine Dog".
Another Filipino portmanteau is a popular but slightly dated female
Luzviminda derived from the Philippines' three major island
Visayas and Mindanao.
Many Filipinos are very fond of speaking in Tagalog with some English
words and thus are actually speaking in Taglish. Tagalog is a dialect
in the island of
Luzon and the basis for the national language
Despite its French etymology (modern spelling: portemanteau),
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 support"), but in the past, it could also refer to a cloth drape
knights would use to pack their gear. It was in this context that it
first came to its English use, and the metaphorical use of 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 of France is regulated by the Académie française
(which has had a conservative attitude to neologisms) 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).
French in Canada has a second regulatory body, named OQLF, an agency
of the Government of Quebec, which is independent of the Académie. It
has a tendency to produce neologisms in order to replace anglicisms.
It created the portmanteaus courriel and clavardage (clavier +
bavardage), for example.[clarification needed] Another example in
Quebec (but made outside of OQLF) is Centricois, which means person
from the region Centre-du-Québec (winner of a contest organised by
SSJB of Centre-du-Québec in 1999).
Galician has many portmanteaus, some existing also in Portuguese but
many others not (or only in the North of Portugal, close to Galicia),
which can be explained by its popular origin: carambelo (frozen
candy), from caramelo (candy) and carámbano (icicle); martabela (a
kind of dead bolt), from martelo (hammer) and tarabela (a kind of
drill bit); rabuñar (to scratch with a fingernail, for instance a cat
or a person), from rabuxa (a small tail, and also a common ill in
tails) and rañar (to scratch); millenta ("many thousands", also
common in Portuguese milhenta), from milleiro (one thousand) and cento
(one hundred); runxir (to crackle, applied to some things only), from
ruxir (to howl) and renxer (to grind the teeth), or vagamundo (tramp),
from vagabundo (wanderer) and mundo (world), currently "vagamundo" and
"vagabundo" mean the same, and the former is considered a
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. A modern example of German
portmanteau is 'Teuro', combining 'teuer' (expensive) and 'Euro'.
Other examples are Mainhattan, a
Central business district
Central business district in
Frankfurt on the river Main like Manhattan, New York and Kreuzkölln,
the Berlin area bordering between
Kreuzberg and Neukölln. 'Jein' is a
widely used contraction of 'Ja' (yes) and 'Nein' (no), to indicate a
combination of the two.
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 the following:
ערפיח (arpíakh, smog), from ערפל (arafél, fog) and פיח
מדרחוב (midrakhov, (pedestrian) promenade), from מדרכה
(midrakhá, footpath) and רחוב (rekhóv, street)
מחזמר (makhazémer, musical), from מחזה (makhazé, play
[noun]) and זמר (zémer, song)
Other blends include the following:
מגדלור (migdalór, lighthouse), from מגדל (migdál, tower)
and אור (or, light)
רמזור (ramzór, traffic light), from רמז (rémez, signal) and
אור (or, light)
Sometimes the root of the second word is truncated, giving rise to a
blend that resembles an acrostic:
תפוז (tapúz, orange (fruit)), from תפוח (tapúakh, apple) and
זהב (zaháv, gold)
A portmanteau common in both Hindi and English is Hinglish, which
refers to the vernacular of the people in (the Hindi-speaking regions
of) North India, where they mix Hindi and English in the spoken
Another modern day example is the
BrahMos missile, whose name is a
portmanteau of two rivers, Brahmaputra and Moskva.
Compounds displaying Sanskritic sandhi are extremely commonplace in
Hindi, but as compounds showing sandhi still consist of multiple
morphemes, these are not portmanteaux.
In Hungarian language, the first decades of the 19th century saw the
language-reforming movement (Hungarian: nyelvújítás), when some
authors and poets, like Ferenc Kazinczy, Pál Bugát, Mihály Fazekas,
Miklós Révai and others created approximately 10,000 new words and
phrases in order to develop Hungarian language to a modern and
progressive tongue. Among these new phrases there are some
gyufa (safety matches), consists of gyújtó (burner) and fa (wood).
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 or seeress").
In Indonesian, portmanteaux are often used as both formal and informal
acronyms and referrals. Many organizations and government bodies use
them for brevity. Journalists often create portmanteaux for particular
historical moments. Examples include:
Formal and journalism uses:
Golput: voters who abstain from voting, from Golongan Putih, "blank
party" or "white party".
Jagorawi: a motorway linking the cities of Jakarta,
Bogor and Ciawi.
Jabodetabek: the neighboring cities of Jakarta, consisting of Jakarta,
Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, and sometimes Cianjur
Suramadu Bridge connects the cities of
Surabaya and Madura
"Malari": refers to "Malapetaka 15 Januari" – a social riot that
happened on 15 January 1974.
Military units, e.g.
Kopassus army special forces unit, from Komando
Pasukan Khusus, "special forces command". Another example is the
Kopaska navy frogman unit, from Komando Pasukan Katak, "Frogman
Governmental bodies, e.g. "Kemdikbud", refers to "Kementerian
Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan" (Education and Culture Ministry), where the
ministry leader is called "Mendikbud", "Menteri Pendidikan dan
Kebudayaan" (Minister of Education and Culture).
Informal uses, for example:
Asbun = Asal bunyi: carelessly speaking
Mafia = matematika + fisika + kimia: math, physics, and chemistry,
three school subjects that are often related with arithmetic
Caper = cari perhatian: attention seeker
Warnet = warung internet: internet cafe
Alay = anak layangan: unfashionable people
Copas = Copy paste: copying other people's work without permission
Ropang = roti panggang: toasted bread
Nasgor = nasi goreng
A very common type of portmanteau in Japanese forms one word from the
beginnings of two others (that is, from two back-clippings). 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 東京大学 (Tōkyō 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 (パーソナル・コンピュータ, pāsonaru konpyūta).
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). A famous example of a blend with
mixed sources is karaoke (カラオケ, karaoke), blending the
Japanese word for empty (空, kara) and the English word orchestra
Some Anime titles also are portmanteaus, such as Hetalia
(ヘタリア). It came from Hetare (ヘタレ) which means "idiot"
and Itaria (イタリア) which means Italy, and for the anime Servamp
which came from English word Servant (サヴァント) and Vampire
Although not very common in Spanish (except for some compulsory
contractions such as 'a el'='al'), portmanteaux are finding their way
into the language mainly through marketing and media efforts, such as
Mexican Spanish 'cafebrería' from 'cafetería' and 'librería', or
Teletón 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 "Maria" + "Fernanda"). Such usages are
obviously prompted by the registering of a distinguishable trademark,
but with time is common that 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.
A somehow popular example in Spain is the word Gallifante, a
portmanteau of Gallo y Elefante (Cockerel and Elephant). It was the
price for the Spanish version of the children TV show Child's Play
(Juego de niños)[better source needed] that ran on the
public television channel La 1 of Television Española (TVE) from 1988
Neologisms are also frequently created from pre-existing words in the
Tibetan languages. For example, kubkyab (the common word for "chair")
combines the words kub ("butt"), kyag ("a stand"), and gyab nye
("cushion," often for the back). Gyabnye is itself a blend of gyabten
("back support") and nyeba, the verb for "lean against, recline, rest
on." Thus the word for chair is "a standing support for one's butt and
back to rest on." Tibetan also employs portmanteaus frequently in
names of important figures and spiritual practices, such as His
Holiness Penor Rinpoche, with Penor being pema norbu ("lotus jewel"),
and the Buddhist practice of Dzogchen, or dzogpa chenpo, the "Great
Perfection." Tibetan is rich with portmanteaus.
In linguistics, the term blend is used to refer to the 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:
This usage has been referred to as "portmanteau morph".
While in Portuguese, French, Spanish and Italian the use of the short
forms is obligatory (with the exception of ès in French, which is
archaic in most senses), German and Cornish speakers theoretically may
freely choose the form they use. In German, portmanteaus clearly
dominate in spoken language, whilst in written language, both forms
are in use.
List of geographic names derived from portmanteaus
List of portmanteaus
^ Pronounced port-MAN-toh or PORT-man-TOH
^ Pronounced -tohz
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^ Punch, 1 August 1896, 58/2
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^ Wallah (Arabic)
^ The name also combines the word lien (link)
^ See p. 62 in Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2009), Hybridity versus
Revivability: Multiple Causation, Forms and Patterns, Journal of
Language Contact, Varia 2 (2009), pp. 40–67.
^ Kristján Árnason; Sigrún Helgadóttir (1991), "Terminology and
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^ es:Juego de niños (programa de televisión)
Look up portmanteau, portmanteau word, or Category:English blends in
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