Word of the Week: portmanteau

This week’s word is portmanteau. It has two meanings. The first comes from combining two French words: porter, which means “to carry” and manteau, which means “mantle” or “cloak” – in other words, clothes. So the first definition of portmanteau is a large suitcase to carry your clothes in.


Notice that the end of “porter” was cut off when combining it with manteau. This may serve as an example of the second definition, which is “to combine two words to make a new, related word.”

portmanteau2Examples in English:
smoke + fog = smog
breakfast + lunch = brunch
It’s different from a compound word, which combines two words together in their entirety, e.g. sunflower, raindrop.

Two more examples: information + commercial = infomercial
situation + comedy = sitcom

Can you think of any others?


You can make up your own portmanteau words – maybe they’ll go mainstream!!


The web site dictionary.com says that the second definition of portmanteau was created by Lewis Carroll (real name Charles L. Dodgson, born 1832, died 1898) for the kind of words he invented for “Jabberwocky”(1872): (noun) “two meanings packed up into one word.”


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