Portmanteau Words



A portmanteau word is created by combining two existing words. They are sometimes eventually recognized by dictionaries, but more often, they appear as slang and quickly fade into obsolescence. A common and relevant example is blog (web + log).

Lewis Caroll gets credit for the linguistic term portmanteau. In his Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty explains the poem “Jabberwocky” to Alice:

Well, slithy means lithe and slimy … You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.

“Jabberwocky” also gave us the now common word chortle, which is the blending of chuckle and snort.

Other common portmanteaux include:

  • smog (smoke + fog)
  • motel (motor + hotel)
  • brunch (breakfast + lunch)
  • alphabet (alpha + beta)
  • bioterrorism (biological + terrorism)
  • camcorder (camera + recorder)
  • electrocution (electric + execution)
  • spork (spoon + fork)
  • sportscast (sport + broadcast)
  • televangelist (television + evangelist)
  • infomercial (information + commercial)
  • guesstimate (guess + estimate)
  • parasailing (parachute + sailing)

But the most entertaining portmanteau words are those that won’t likely ever make the dictionary — words that are invented to meet a particular need for a particular time. Those below are in this category. Whether they survive remains to be seen.

  • edutainment (education + entertainment)
  • slanguage (slang + language)
  • ginormous (gigantic + enormous)
  • mathlete (math + athlete)
  • dramedy (drama + comedy)
  • Chinglish (Chinese & English)
  • affluenza (affluent + influenza)
  • joggling (jogging + juggling)

Here are a few others  I found online, including their definitions:

  • apocalapse: gap between predictions of the end of the world and when it actually happens
  • skopping: a movement something like hopping and something like skipping
  • jerd: someone who is both a jock and a nerd
  • arrognance: the quality of being simultaneously ignorant and arrogant
  • mediocracy: a democracy where mediocrity abounds
  • arachnaclaustrophobia: fear of being in close spaces with spiders
  • momentaneous: happening momentarily and instantaneously
  • framily: a friend who is part of your family

And here’s my current favorite:

  • precipilude: When you’re driving in the rain and you go under an bridge — that moment where the rain isn’t beating down on your windshield; a precipitation interlude.

Got any more? I’d love some originals.


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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

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