A portmanteau word, or portmanteau (/pɔːrtˈmænt/ (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, comparing it to the then-common type of luggage, which opens into two equal parts:

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.

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".

The word refudiate was famously used by Sarah Palin when she misspoke, conflating the words refute and repudiate. Though 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 includes words like "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). "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.


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

  • ערפיח (arpíakh, 'smog'), from ערפל (arafél, 'fog') and פיח (píakh, 'soot')
  • מדרחוב (midrakhov, 'pedestrian-only street'), from מדרכה (midrakhá, 'sidewalk') and רחוב (rekhóv, 'street')
  • מחזמר (makhazémer, 'musical'), from מחזה (makhazé, 'theatre play') and זמר (zémer, 'singing' [gerund])
  • מגדלור (migdalór, 'lighthouse'), from מגדל (migdál, 'tower') and אור (or, 'light')
  • קרנף (karnáf, 'rhinoceros'), from קרן (kéren, 'horn') and אף (af, 'nose')
  • רמזור (ramzór, 'traffic light'), from רמז (rémez, 'indication') and אור (or, 'light')
  • חוטיני (khutíni, 'thong bikini'), from חוט‎ (khut, 'string') and ביקיני (bikíni, 'bikini')

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')
  • תפוד (tapúd, 'potato'), from תפוח (tapúakh, 'apple') and אדמה (adamá, 'soil' or 'earth'), but the full תפוח אדמה (tapúakh adamá, 'apple of the soil' or 'apple of the earth') is more common


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

  • Brexit is referred to as Breatimeacht (from Breatain, "Britain", and imeacht, "leave") or Sasamach (from Sasana, "England", and amach, "out")[30][31]
  • The resignation of Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Frances Fitzgerald was referred to as Slánaiste (from slán, "goodbye" and Tánaiste)[32][33]
  • Naíonra, an Irish-language preschool (from naíonán, "infants", and gasra, "band")[34]
  • The Irish translation of A Game of Thrones refers to Winterfell castle as Gheimhsceirde (from gheimhridh, "winter", and sceird, "exposed to winds")[35]
  • Jailtacht (from English jail and Gaeltacht, "Irish-speaking region"): the community of Irish-speaking republican prisoners.[36]


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:

  • Cantriz, from cantora (female singer) and atriz (actress), which defines women that both sing and act.[40][41]
  • Aborrescente, from aborrecer (annoy) and adolescente (teenager), which is a pejorative term for teenagers.[42][43]
  • Pescotapa, from pescoço (neck) and tapa (slap), which defines a slap on the back of the neck.[44][45]

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

  • Telemóvel, which means mobile phone, comes from telefone (telephone) and móvel (mobile).[46]
  • Cantautor, which means Singer-songwriter, and comes from cantor (singer) and autor (songwriter).


Although traditionally uncommon in Spanish, portmanteaus are increasingly finding their way into the language, mainly for marketing and commercial purposes. Examples in Mexican Spanish include cafebrería from combining cafetería "coffee shop" and librería "bookstore", or teletón 'telethon' from combining televisión and maratón. Portmanteaus are also frequently used to make commercial brands, such as "chocolleta" from "chocolate" + "galleta." They are also often used to create business company names, especially for small, family-owned businesses, where owners' names are combined to create a unique name (such as Rocar, from "Roberto" + "Carlos", or Mafer, from "María" + "Fernanda"). These usages are helpful for registering of a distinguishable trademark.

Other examples:

  • Cantautor, which means Singer-songwriter, and comes from cantante (singer) and autor (songwriter).[47]
  • Mecatrónica and Ofimática two Neologisms that are blends of mecánica (mechanical) with electrónica (electronics), and oficina (office) with informática (informatics) respectively.
  • Espanglish, interlanguage that combines words from both Spanish (Español) and English.
  • Metrobús, blend of metro (subway) and autobús.
  • Autopista, blend of automóvil (car) and pista (highway).
  • Company names and brands with portmanteaus are common in Spanish. Some examples of Spanish portmanteaus for Mexican companies include: The Mexican flag carrier Aeroméxico, (Aerovías de México), Banorte (Bank and North), Cemex (Cement and Mexico), Jumex (Jugos Mexicanos or Mexican Juice), Mabe (from founders Egon MAbardi and Francisco BErrondo), Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos or Mexican Oil), Softtek (portmanteau and stylization of Software and technology), and Telmex (Teléfonos de Mexico). Gamesa (Galletera Mexicana, S.A. or Mexican Biscuit Company, Inc.) and Famsa (fabricantes Muebleros, S.A.) are examples of portmanteaus of four words, including the "S.A." (Sociedad Anónima).
  • Many more portmanteaus in Spanish come from Anglicisms, which are words borrowed from English, like módem, transistor, códec, email, internet or emoticon.

A somewhat popular example in Spain is the word gallifante,[48] 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.[49]

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. In English, two separate morphs are used: of an animal. Other examples include French: à leau [o] and de ledu [dy].[6]

See also


  1. Garner's Modern American Usage Archived 27 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine, p. 644.
  2. "Portmanteau". Merriam-Webster Offline Dictionary. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  3. "Portmanteau word". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. Archived from the original on 26 November 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  4. "portmanteau word". Webster's New World College Dictionary. Cleveland: Wiley. 2010. ISBN 978-0-7645-7125-1.
  5. "Portmanteau word". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 15 December 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  6. "What is a portmanteau morph?". LinguaLinks Library. 2003. Archived from the original on 19 June 2008.
  7. Thomas, David (1983). "An invitation to grammar". Summer Institute of Linguistics. Bangkok: Mahidol University: 9. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. Crystal, David (1985). "A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics" (2nd ed.). New York: Basil Blackwell: 237. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. Hartmann, R.R.K.; Stork, F.C. (1972). "Dictionary of language and linguistics". London: Applied Science: 180. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. Fandrych, Ingrid (10 November 2008). "Submorphemic elements in the formation of acronyms, blends and clippings". Lexis (2). doi:10.4000/lexis.713.
  11. "portmanteau, n.". Oxford English Dictionary, third edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  12. Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., and Hyams, N. (2007) An Introduction to Language, Eighth Edition. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 1-4130-1773-8.
  13. "portmanteu". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 July 2019. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  14. "Portmanteau". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
  15. Petit Robert: portemanteau – "malle penderie" (suitcase in which clothes hang).
  16. "PORTEMANTEAU : Définition de PORTEMANTEAU". cnrtl.fr (in French). Archived from the original on 21 August 2014.
  17. Such a "coat bag" is mentioned in Chapter 12 of Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.
  18. "Frankenwords: They're Alive!" The Guardian, 5 February 2016. Archived 10 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. Punch, 1 August 1896, 58/2
  20. "NEW OXFORD AMERICAN DICTIONARY'S 2010 WORD OF THE YEAR IS..." Archived from the original on 16 January 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  21. Tully, Shawn (7 March 2015). "The crazy, true-life adventures of Norway's most radical billionaire". Fortune. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. A few years later Thomas Olsen would rechristen the company Timex. He hatched the iconic name from an unusual confluence of sources. Recalls Fred: "My father always loved to noodle with words. He liked to read Time magazine, and he used a lot of Kleenex, so he put the two names together and got Timex."
  22. "Twingo I". Renault UK Press Office. Renault. Archived from the original on 8 September 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  23. Zimmer, Benjamin (1 November 2005). "A perilous portmanteau?". Language Log. University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on 29 December 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2008.
  24. Winterman, Denise (3 August 2006). "What a mesh". BBC News Magazine. Archived from the original on 16 December 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  25. "The Daily Crossword". The New York Times. 28 June 2017.
  26. Christine Byrne (2 October 2013). "How To Celebrate Thanksgivukkah, The Best Holiday Of All Time". Buzzfeed. Archived from the original on 9 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  27. Stu Bykofsky (22 October 2012). "Thanks for Thanukkah!". Philly.com. Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  28. "A Tour Of 'San Fransokyo', The Hybrid City Disney Built For Big Hero 6". Gizmodo Australia. 8 October 2014. Archived from the original on 5 June 2019. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  29. See p. 62 in Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2009), Hybridity versus Revivability: Multiple Causation, Forms and Patterns Archived 22 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Journal of Language Contact, Varia 2 (2009), pp. 40–67.
  30. "The Irish words for 'selfie', 'Brexit' and 'spam'". Irishtimes.com. Archived from the original on 1 February 2018. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  31. "Making sense of Brexit". Irishtimes.com. Archived from the original on 8 May 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  32. "Slánaiste: Irish Times Letter Writers Have Their Say on the Political Crisis" Archived 8 September 2019 at the Wayback Machine (30 November 2017). The Irish Times. Retrieved from IrishTimes.com, 18 September 2018.
  33. Spain, Cíara. "'Slánaiste' As Frances Fitzgerald Set To Resign – Radio Nova". Nova.ie. Archived from the original on 24 June 2018. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  34. "Champion of Irish Dancing & Naíonraí Has Passed Away". Cnag.ie. Archived from the original on 8 September 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  35. "The Irish translation of the Game of Thrones books are really, really literal". Entertainment.ie. 23 October 2016. Archived from the original on 24 June 2018. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  36. CHRÍOST, DIARMAIT MAC GIOLLA (23 June 2018). Jailtacht: The Irish Language, Symbolic Power and Political Violence in Northern Ireland, 1972–2008. University of Wales Press. ISBN 9780708324967. JSTOR j.ctt9qhjkk.
  37. 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.
  38. "What are contracted words like rimokon?". Sljfaq.org. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  39. Rosen, Eric. "Japanese loanword accentuation: epenthesis and foot form interacting through edge-interior alignment∗" (PDF). University of British Columbia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  40. "A hora das cantrizes – ISTOÉ Independente". ISTOÉ Independente (in Brazilian Portuguese). 4 October 2010. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  41. ""Consegui realizar meu grande sonho: ser cantriz!"". Tititi (in Brazilian Portuguese). 2 February 2016. Archived from the original on 16 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  42. "O que é uma palavra-valise?". Kid Bentinho. Archived from the original on 16 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  43. "Significado de Aborrescente". Dicionarioinformal.com.br. Archived from the original on 16 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  44. ""Pescotapa" de Ciro Gomes repercute nas redes; apoiadores afirmam que vídeo foi manipulado – Brasil – BOL Notícias". Noticias.bol.uol.com.br (in Brazilian Portuguese). Archived from the original on 16 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  45. "Significado de Pescotapa". Dicionarioinformal.com.br. Archived from the original on 16 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  46. "telemóvel – English translation – Linguee". Linguee.com. Archived from the original on 8 October 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  47. Cantautor, ra Royal Spanish Academy Archived 29 February 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  48. "Gallifantes – RTVE.es". Rtve.es. 25 February 2011. Archived from the original on 7 February 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  49. "Jugar bien vale un 'gallifante'". El País. 4 June 1988. Archived from the original on 6 February 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
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