A portmanteau (, ) or portmanteau word is a linguistics Blend word,
[ Garner's Modern American Usage , p. 644] 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 .
The definition overlaps with the grammar 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.
The word portmanteau
was first used in this sense by Lewis Carroll
in the book Through the Looking-Glass
in which Humpty Dumpty
explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in "Jabberwocky
[Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., and Hyams, N. (2007) An Introduction to Language, Eighth Edition. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. .]
means "slimy and lithe" and mimsy
is "miserable and flimsy". Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the practice of combining words in various ways:
In his introduction to The Hunting of the Snark, Carroll uses portmanteau when discussing Blend word:
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).
["Portmanteau." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.] 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. [Petit Robert: portemanteau – "malle penderie" (suitcase in which clothes hang)] [Such a "coat bag" is mentioned in Chapter 12 of Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.]
An occasional synonym for "portmanteau word" is frankenword, an autological word exemplifying the phenomenon it describes, blending "Frankenstein" and "word".
[ "Frankenwords: They're Alive!" The Guardian, 5 February, 2016 ]
Examples in English
are examples of blends, but many blends have become part of the lexicon.
in 1896, the word brunch
(breakfast + lunch) was introduced as a "portmanteau word."
[ Punch, 1 August 1896, 58/2]
In 1964, the newly independent African republic of Tanganyika
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 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 "United States" 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 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 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, those of 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 Oxford American Dictionarys "Word of the Year" in 2010.
Brexit is a recent (2016) example, referring to Britains 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 Renault 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
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
By contrast, the public, including the media, use portmanteaus to refer to their favorite pairings as a way to "...give people an essence of who they are within the same name."
This is particularly seen in cases of fictional and real-life "
". An early known example, Bennifer
, referred to film stars Ben Affleck
and Jennifer Lopez
. Other examples include Brangelina
and Angelina Jolie
) and TomKat
and Katie Holmes
"Desilu Productions" was a Los Angeles, California-based company jointly owned by couple and actors Desi Arnaz
and Lucille Ball
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 'Portmanteau'."
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.
For the Disney film Big Hero 6, there is a location called "San Fransokyo", a fusion between San Francisco and Tokyo.
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 Arabic
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
إيش (ʔēš , what), from أي (ʔay, which) and شيء (šayʔ, thing).
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, that).
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 that).
إيوه (ʔīwa, yes), from إي (ʔī, yes) and و (wa, swear to or promise by) and الله (allāh, God).
A few rare or facetious examples would include:
لعم from ("naʕm", yes) and ("la", no), implying you are not sure
متشائل ("mutashaʔim", pessimist) and ("mutafaʔil", optimist), the title of a novel published by Emile Habibi in 1974. The title is translated in English to "The Pessoptimist."
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 مغناطيسي ("magnetic")
In the Bulgarian language, the most common use of portmanteau is as a part of advertising
campaigns. One such example is the word gintuition
pronounced dzhintuitsia), which is made up from the words gin
. 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
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 "tapsilugan".
The name of a common Filipino mongrel dogs askal is derived from Tagalog language 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 name Luzviminda derived from Philippines' three major island groups Luzon, 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 Filipino.
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).
[The name also combines the word lien (link)]
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. 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 the 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
(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 vulgarism.
, 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 in Frankfurt
on the river Main like Manhattan
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.
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:
[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.]
ערפיח ( arpíakh, smog), from ערפל ( arafél, fog) and פיח ( píakh, soot)
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)
On Brazilian Portuguese, portmanteaus are usually slangs, some of them include:
Cantriz, from cantora (female singer) and atriz (actress), which defines women that both sing and act.
Aborrescente, from aborrecer (annoy) and adolescente (teenager), which is a pejorative term for teenagers.
Pescotapa, from pescoço (neck) and tapa (slap), which defines a slap on the back of the neck.
On European Portuguese, there is the word telemóvel, which means mobile phone, comes from telefone (telephone) and móvel (mobile).
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 language.
Another modern day example is the BrahMos missile, whose name is a portmanteau of two rivers, Brahmaputra and Moskva River.
Compounds displaying sandhi are extremely commonplace in Hindi, but as compounds showing sandhi still consist of multiple , these are not portmanteaus.
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 portmanteaus:
gyufa (safety matches), consists of gyújtó (burner) and fa (wood).
There is a tradition of linguistic purism in Icelandic, and
are frequently created from pre-existing words. For example, Tölva
("computer") is a portmanteau
("digit; number") and völva
("oracle or seeress").
[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]
In Indonesian, portmanteaus are often used as both formal and informal
and referrals. Many organizations and government bodies use them for brevity. Journalists often create portmanteaus 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 Ci awi.
Jabodetabek: the neighboring cities of Jakarta, consisting of Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, and sometimes Cianjur (Jabodetabekjur).
The Suramadu Bridge connects the cities of Surabaya and Madura
"Malari incident": refers to "Malapetaka 15 Januari" – a social riot that happened on 15 January 1974.
Military units, e.g. Kopassus Indonesian Army special forces unit, from Komando Pasukan Khu sus, "special forces command". Another example is the Kopaska Indonesian Navy frogman unit, from Komando Pasukan Katak, "Frogman Command".
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 + kimi a: math, physics, and chemistry, three school subjects that are often related with arithmetic
Caper = cari perhatian: attention seeker
Warnet = warung inter net: 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 Tōdai for the University of Tokyo, in full Tōkyō daigaku. With borrowings, typical results are words such as pasokon, meaning personal computer (PC), which despite being formed of English elements does not exist in English; it is a wasei-eigo contraction of the English pāsonaru konpyūta. Another example, ポケモン, is a contracted form of the English words poketto and monsutā.
A famous example of a blend with mixed sources is karaoke, blending the Japanese word for kara and the English word ōkesutora.
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 (ヴァンパイア).
Although not very common in Spanish language
(except for a pair of compulsory contractions, 'a el'='al' and 'de el'='del'), portmanteaus are finding their way into the language mainly through marketing and media efforts, such as in 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. Examples of a portmanteau in Spanish includes the word ofimática
(office automation), a blend of the words oficina
(office) and informática
A somewhat popular example in Spain is the word Gallifante
[http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/para-todos-la-2/gallifantes/1030400//], 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 (Juego de niños) [
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 gy ab 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 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 (written) contractions. Examples of such combinations include:
|Portuguese||a o|| |
|a a|| |
|de o|| |
|de a|| |
|a aquele|| |
|a aquela|| |
|a aquilo|| |
|de ela|| |
|de ele|| |
|de eles|| |
|de elas|| |
|em uma|| |
|em um|| |
|em uns|| |
|em umas|| |
|em a|| |
|em o|| |
|em as|| |
|em os|| |
|French||à le|| |
|à les|| |
|de le|| |
|de les|| |
|en les|| |
|German||in das|| |
|in dem|| |
|von dem|| |
|an dem|| |
|an das|| |
|zu dem|| |
|zu der|| |
|Irish||de an|| |
|do an|| |
|Spanish||a el|| |
|de el|| |
|Italian||a il|| |
|a la|| |
|a lo|| |
|a l'|| |
|a i|| |
|a gli|| |
|a le|| |
|di il|| |
|di la|| |
|di lo|| |
|di l'|| |
|di i|| |
|di gli|| |
|di le|| |
|da il|| |
|da la|| |
|da lo|| |
|da l'|| |
|da i|| |
|da gli|| |
|da le|| |
|Cornish||a an|| |
|Welsh||i ein|| |
|o ein|| |
|West Frisian||bist do|| |
|yn de|| |
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.