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What Portmanteau Words are and How They Grow the English Lexicon

The word “portmanteau” means a word that is made up from parts of two or more words that are mixed together to make a new word or term.

David J K Carr
David J K Carr
Book lesson

The word “portmanteau” (pronounced port-mant-oh) has two meanings. The first, less well-known meaning, is a large, rather old-fashioned traveling suitcase, usually made from leather. The second, much better known, meaning is a word that is made up from parts of two or more words that are mixed together to make a new word or term.

As usual, this is best illustrated by means of an example and one that dates back to the late 19th century. It describes a late morning meal that a person eats instead of breakfast or lunch. The word is “brunch.” Get it?

Portmanteau examples to take with you

There are lots of other examples, especially in the entertainment world. Do you enjoy watching “romcoms” (romantic+comedy)? Or how about “sitcoms” (situation+comedy)? Or do you prefer “biopics” (biography+picture)?

Some words or terms are so popular and so universal that most people don’t realise that they are portmanteau words, such as “Pokemon” (pocket+monster) or “motel” (motor+hotel).

If you follow developments in the world of business, you will probably come across the term “fintech” (financial+technology). Portmanteau words are also to be found in the world of politics and surely the most famous of them is a portmanteau of British+ exit or Brexit.

The world of technology has spawned a whole host of portmanteau words that have all been added to the lexicon. There are too many to list here but a few examples are “malware” (malicious+software), netiquette (network+etiquette), “Webinar” (web+seminar) and “podcast” (iPod+broadcast).

Combining two words is the way to create a portmanteau

A quite recent portmanteau word that always makes me smile is the term for a flaky, iced pastry which is a cross between a croissant and a doughnut: A cronut!

For me, this is what makes English such a wonderful language. The English language is flexible and constantly evolving with new words being added to the dictionary almost every day. In my opinion, this partly explains why the English language is so popular the world over.

So, keep studying and learning more English, and, who knows, one day you may invent a portmanteau that adds another word to the English lexicon.

Some more examples:

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Sideways (2004)
Tusk (2014)
EnglishIdioms & expressions

David J K Carr

I'm a British native and worked as a lawyer in London for 30 years. I'm also a TEFL-certified English teacher and have been teaching students all over the world for 3 years.

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Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

Valentina Dordevic

Hello! My name is Valentina. Book digesting is my specialty. I transform book ideas into easy-to-follow summaries, articles, study guides, reviews, essays, analyses, slides, or e-books.

Beth Taylor

Hello! My name is Beth. I'm from France. I'm a French and English native speaker and I really like writing.