Portmanteau meaning

A portmanteau (pronounced port-MAN-toe) is a word made by blending at least two words. The new word combines both the sounds and meanings of the originals.

To form a portmanteau, usually the first segment of one word is attached to the final segment of another word. Some portmanteau words are blended in other ways, like combining the initial segments of both words.

The Origin of the Word Portmanteau

The term portmanteau was first used by Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:

“Well, ‘slithy’ means “lithe and slimy” and ‘mimsy’ is “flimsy and miserable”. You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

Interestingly, the word portmanteau itself is also a blend of two different words: porter (to carry) and manteau (a cloak).

Portmanteau words are extremely popular in modern-day English and new word combinations are regularly popping up.

What is the function of a portmanteau?

A portmanteau is a literary device that encourages linguistic creativity. By combining two distinct words into one, a new word is created that holds its own specific meaning.

This wordplay expands the boundaries of language while also keeping readers engaged in the creative work.

So here are some examples:

advertorial (advertisement + editorial) – an advertisement that takes the form of a written editorial

affluenza (affluence + influenza) – unhealthy feelings of entitlement or lack of motivation experienced by wealthy people

alphanumeric (alphabetic + numeric) – consisting of letters and numbers

animatronics (animation + electronics) – the electronic animation of puppets or similar figures to create lifelike effects

anklet (ankle + bracelet) – jewelry designed to wrap around the ankleathleisure (athletic + leisure) – comfortable clothing that can be worn for exercise or as casual, everyday attire

biopic (biography + picture) – a biographical film

Bollywood (Bombay + Hollywood) – the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai

Botox (botulism + toxin) – an injectable drug that uses a strain of botulism to treat signs of aging on the skin

brainiac (brain + maniac) – a highly intelligent person

breathalyzer (breath + analyzer) – a device used to analyze a person’s breath for their blood alcohol content or to detect viruses

Brexit (Britain + exit) – the withdrawal of Great Britain from the European Union in 2020, after voting to leave in a 2016 referendum

bromance (brother + romance) – a close platonic relationship between two male friends

brunch (breakfast + lunch) – a meal that takes place between breakfast and lunch hours

carjack (car/hijack): To take someone’s car by force.

celebutant(e) (celebrity/debutant(e)): Someone who is famous for being famous but who has no apparent talent.

chillax (chill/relax): Calm down, rest.

Chinglish (Chinese/English): A variation of the English language as spoken by people of Chinese descent.

chocoholic (chocolate + alcoholic): Someone who eats excessive amounts of chocolate.

chortle (chuckle/snort): Laugh in a breathy, gleeful way.

Chunnel (channel/tunnel): Word used to describe the Channel Tunnel that runs between the UK and France.

cineplex (cinema/complex): A movie theatre with several screens.

Cocacolonization (Coca-Cola/colonization): The aggressive introduction or pervasive influence of American consumerism on other cultures.

cosplay (costume + play): Dressing up in costumes that resemble characters from popular culture.

craptacular (crap/spectacular): Entertainment that is so poor in quality it captivating.

crunk (crazy/drunk): Out of control after consuming alcohol.

cyborg (cybernetic/organism): A human or fictional entity whose physiological functioning is enhanced by mechanical elements.

docusoap (documentary/soap opera): A hybrid drama that follows the lives of real people over a given period of time.

dumbfound (dumb/confound): Greatly astonish or amaze.

ebonics (ebony/phonics): A distinct form of English that is spoken by people of African descent.

edutainment (education/entertainment): Games or other forms of entertainment that have an educational aspect.

electrocution (electricity/execution): Death by electricity.

emoticon (emotion/icon): The use of keyboard characters to represent a facial expression.

evailable (electronic/available): To be available online via an electronic method such as email.

hangry (hungry + angry) – irritable or angry as a result of hunger

hazmat (hazardous + material) – substances that could be dangerous if not properly contained

intercom (internal + communication) – a two-way speaker system used to communicate among people in a specific location

internet (interconnected + network) – a computer network of information

jeggings (jeans + leggings) – leggings designed to resemble denim jeans

ginormous (giant/enormous): Large, huge.

glamping (glamour/camping): Luxury camping.

glitz (glamour/Ritz): Extravagant yet superficial.

guesstimate (guess + estimate): To estimate without solid facts or figures.

infomercial (information/commercial): A television program that promotes a product in an informative and supposedly objective way.

infotainment (information + entertainment): Forms of popular media that blend information and entertainment together. Similar to edutainment (education + entertainment).

interrobang (interrogative/bang): A combination of a question mark and an exclamation point.

shero (she/hero): A woman admired or idealized for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.