What is a portmanteau?

This blog post was inspired by Shawn MacKenzie who taught me the word “portmanteau.”


The Delmarva Peninsula

I knew bits of my vocabulary included portmanteaus – like smoke and fog make smog. But I didn’t know they were called portmanteaus.

Here’s the Wikipedia explanation of a portmanteau. And surprise! Wikipedia is a combination of Wiki and encyclopedia.

In case you are wondering what a “wiki” is (I was) – a website developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add or edit content.

On to the portmanteaus!



Delmarva – from Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. I grew up here!

I don’t get this one because they don’t share a border – Pennsyltucky, from Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Must be cultural. Can anyone explain this one?


Gratuitous cute kitty

Gratuitous cute kitty

Liger, which is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger. And to complicate things, a tiglon or tigon is a cross in which the male is a tiger.

Wholphin – From whale and dolphin. I’m sorry, what? These guys are participating in way too much underwater sexting (from sex and texting).

Labradoodle. From Labrador Retriever and Poodle.

Online stuff

Blogs – so many of us write them; do we know from whence they come? From web and log.

Netiquette – net and etiquette. I’ve blogged about this a few times, eh?

A relatively new thing, quite addictive – Pinterest, from pin and interest.

Food and such

Brunch – from breakfast and lunch.

And from having too many mimosas at brunch – breathalyzer, from breath and analyzer.

A spork is a cross between a spoon and a fork. This spork thing – I think it’s sort of stupid. If I want a spoon, I grab a spoon; if I want a fork, I grab a fork.

Arfé, from art and café – this one begs me to say, “Excuse me, I arféd.”


Prevacid, from prevent and acid – in case you plan on visiting a really bad arfé or a nasty all-you-can-eat brunch.

Talking street DSC00642

Slanguage, from slang and language.

Chillax – from chill and relax. I thought my son coined this one. He does it so well.


Amtrak, from American and track.

Intel, from integrated and electronics.

One of my faves

Snark or snarky – from snide and remark.


Chortle – from chuckle and snort (coined by Lewis Carroll!). And a huge jump (time-line wise) from Carroll to …

Cyborg – From cybernetic and organism

Going old school

Motown a combination of motor and town. The Supremes, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandellas, Jr. Walker and the All Stars.

Dude! Do you see what I see?

Dude! Do you see what I see?

The Temptations. Didn’t they use funkadelic? From funky and psychedelic? See The Temptations, a great YouTube video, from Ed Sullivan’s Really Big Shooo.

See a list

Would you like a list of portmanteaus? Wiki comes through again!

Origin of portmanteau

Middle French, portemanteau, from porter, to carry plus manteau, mantle. First known use: 1579.

Do you have a favorite portmanteau or two?


Filed under Words & Vocabulary

15 responses to “What is a portmanteau?

  1. Love portmanteaus – and they are perfect for those long ocean voyages we all dream of but never quite get round to. Great as always, Karen.
    One of my favorites is whiskisses – a particularly affectionate greeting from my cats or chinchillas. 🙂

  2. Hey Shawn. Whiskisses is a new one on me! Thanks for the new vocabulary! And thanks, too, for the inspiration on this blog.

  3. Karen, the only thing I can think of is that Pennsylvania and Kentucky are both commonwealths. But then so is Virginia and there is one other, can’t remember. But even our lawyer couldn’t explain to me the difference between a state and a commonwealth.

  4. Love these “word thangees” – or wangees? huhn — don’t quit your day job Kathryn 😀

  5. My tongue got all tangled up trying to say it!! 😉
    My daughter and I speak “Spanglish” to each other. (in our case, very poor Spanish mixed with English)

  6. I love the SOUND of portmanteau (the word) and I love to interconnect words to make a special meaning. Around my house, I try to get away with making ‘linner’ (combine lunch and dinner into one meal). However, I rarely get away with it.
    Also, one of my favorite words is Fantabulous (combining fabulous with fantastic). I don’t know if I made it up, but it makes me feel good when I use it!

    • I have heard that some families have their own special bits of vocabulary as well. I’d be happy with linner, as long as I could raid the kitchen for a snack later on!

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