Posted by: Jodi | March 18, 2011

Fun Friday: The Portmanteau

We’ve all heard them, a bizarre word that’s half one word half another but manages to capture the meaning of both.   Today we learn the proper name to call them – a portmanteau. These little gems sprung from the need to convey an awkward word grouping in a simpler way.  Now they are used everywhere, you can find them in brand names, technology terms, and conversation.  What do you call that meal that’s too late for breakfast and not quite lunch?  Brunch.   That’s a portmanteau.   Let’s explore some popular examples, it’s up to you to figure out what words they are made of.

Behold, the iconic spork

  • spork
  • breathalyzer
  • camcorder
  • skort
  • Spanglish
  • chortle
  • cyborg
  • gerrymandering
  • ginormous
  • Jazzercise
  • mathlete
  • smog
  • soundscape
  • netiquette
  • emoticon
  • liger

Want more? Wikipedia has a huge comprehensive article on the definition, origins, and linguistics of the portmanteau as well as an all inclusive list of all known examples.
Stumped by any of the examples? Let us know in the comments so we can make fun of you help you out!



  1. Now I feel pressured to invent a bunch of funny new ones. Why can’t I be a passive blog reader?

    So what’s smog? Smoke and fog? How about “polooshog”?

    Then we wouldn’t have Godzilla vs the Smog Monster. Nevermind.

    • Afraid polooshog just doesn’t have that ring, but then again if you look at the list there are dozens that sound like they should have never have caught on.

  2. I think dog crossbreeds give us the best portmanteaus: chwiener, labradoodle; newfamute!

    • You are so totally right (shame on me, the once upon a time veterinary nurse for not thinking of it). You forgot a personal favorite – the Bullshitz (bulldog X shitzu). Might not be a formal term…

  3. […] Fun Friday: The Portmanteau ( […]


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