A portmanteau is a word formed by combining meaning and partial sounds from at least two other words.
Obvious example: smog. A mixture of smoke and fog, the word combines sounds from each.
A portmanteau differs from a compound, which combines two complete words. Thus “motorhome” is a compound; “motel – meaning “motor hotel” – is a portmanteau.
It’s sometimes called a “portmanteau word”. I prefer this, since “portmanteau” by itself also means (originally, and literally) a trunk or suitcase with two compartments.
In its current sense of a composite word, “portmanteau” was coined by Lewis Carroll in his book Through the Looking Glass (1871). There, Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice some of the odd words in the poem Jabberwocky. “Slithy” is “lithe and slimy”; “mimsy” is “miserable and flimsy”.
“You see” (says Humpty) “it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”
One of my favorite portmanteau words is “spork”. That’s of course the melding of a spoon and a fork into a single utensil, along with their sounds into a single word.
What are some of your favorite portmanteaus?
(This article is part of my series on words that are #worth1000pictures.)