Portmanteau Words

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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 Wasko

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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