Portmanteau Words

For your edutainment.

alice-in-wonderland-mad-hatterLewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, coined a term for words created by combining the sounds and meanings of two (or more) different words: he called it a portmanteau [port-MAN-toe] word.[1] The next time something tickles your funny bone and makes you chuckle and snort, you can thank Mr. Carroll for the descriptive word chortle. He also gave us galumph (gallop + triumph, or a triumphant gallop). I challenge you to work those words into a meaningful conversation tomorrow with a loved one, teacher, or client. They will be impressed.

A portmanteau word is created when smoke is blended with fog (=smog), when gigantic is combined with enormous (=ginormous), when information is combined with commercial (=infomercial), when education is combined with entertainment (=edutainment), and when Oxford is combined with Cambridge (=Oxbridge).[2]

Now that we’ve been enlightened by this life-changing term, portmanteau word, here’s a list of ten more, used somewhere in the world every day:

  • aerobicize (aerobic + exercise)
  • blog (web + log)
  • brunch (breakfast + lunch)
  • docudrama (documentary + drama)
  • emoticon (emotion + icon)
  • fantabulous (fantastic + fabulous)
  • motel (motor + hotel)
  • simulcast (simultaneous + broadcast)
  • televangelist (television + evangelist) 
  • Vitameatavegamin (a portmanteau word on steroids: vitamins + meat + vegetables + minerals. From I Love Lucy, season 1, episode 30.)

Your turn. Please share a portmanteau word you’ve used or have heard used. If it’s your own made-up word, that’s great—as long as it’s one you have actually used with real people. Kindly observe proper netiquette (Internet + etiquette) at all times.  Δ


[1] Linguists use the term blend.

[2] The source for most of the information in this post is Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 644.

©  2016 by Dean Christensen. All rights reserved.

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Author: Dean Christensen

Educator, copyeditor, writer, voiceover guy, baseball bug, logophile, classical music afficionado, classic rock 'n' roll lover, classic-movie buff, bibliophile, former this, used to be that, and future who knows what. Every day is an adventure in learning.

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