Portmanteau And Other Cool Words About How We Use Words

List of words in white outline, with central word in bold white font, on dark green background: “mondegreen, eggcorn, crash blossom, ghost word, zeugma, sesquipedalian, snowclone”

We make it no secret here that we think words are really cool. In English, we can do a lot of cool things with words like make metaphors, rhymes, or craft groan-worthy puns that even the most tolerant of dads will roll their eyes at. To help express our love of vocabulary, we found a bunch of fun terms that describe a lot of different and funny ways to use words. If you are a fellow lexeme lover, you are bound to enjoy all of these fun words about … words!


A portmanteau, or portmanteau word, is a blend of the spelling and meaning of two words that forms an entirely new word.

Portmanteau examples


An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the audible sound that it refers to. The act of creating a new word that does this is also called onomatopoeia.

Onomatopoeia examples


A loanword is a word taken from one language and used in a different language while keeping its same meaning. The English language uses tons of loanwords from many other languages.

Loanword examples

⚡️ Even more loanwords

You may not have realized how many English words actually come directly from other languages, especially words used every day. Expand your knowledge and knowhow of these words by reading through our compilations on words that come from Japanese, French, Chinese languages, Korean, Russian, The Philippines, Scottish, Hindi and Urdu, and even Old Norse for a start.


Tmesis is a linguistic device that involves separating a compound word and inserting one or more words between the different parts.

Tmesis examples

  • another = “a whole nother”
  • absolutely = “abso-freakin’-lutely”
  • somewhere = “some bloody where”

Nonce word

A nonce word is a new word invented to be used in a single specific instance.

Nonce word examples

Discover more words that Lewis Carroll penned.


A mondegreen is a word or phrase mistakenly confused for another, especially when mishearing song lyrics.

Mondegreen examples

  • “Hold me closer, Tony Danza (tiny dancer).” /// Elton John
  • “Money for nothin’ and chips (your chicks) for free .” /// Dire Straits
  • “Excuse me while I kiss this guy (the sky).” /// Jimi Hendrix


An eggcorn is a new word or phrase that emerges from mistakenly hearing or interpreting another. Although resulting from a mistake, an eggcorn often still seems to make logical sense.

Eggcorn examples

  • all intensive purposes (“All intents and purposes.”)
  • duck tape (duct tape)
  • wet one’s appetite (“whet one’s appetite”)

Crash blossom

A crash blossom is an ambiguously worded news headline that can have a confusing or humorous interpretation.

Crash blossom examples

  • Doctors Help Bee Sting Victims
  • Dead Man Remains Discovered by Police
  • Party Head Eyes Flexing Muscles by Handing Arms to Foot Soldiers

Ghost word

A ghost word is a word that is recorded in a dictionary by mistake rather than by actual usage. For example, a word might end up in a reference book by an accidental typo or mistranslation.

Ghost word examples

Learn more ghost words here.


A mountweazel is a fake word or fake bit of information intentionally put into a reference work in order to reveal acts of plagiarism or copyright infringement. The word mountweazel is a reference to “Lillian Virginia Mountweazel,” a fake name used in the 1975 New Columbia Encyclopedia to detect copyright thefts of the encyclopedia. (That is, if the entry appeared in another work, then editors knew text had been copied from the New Columbia Encyclopedia.)


A sniglet is a word used to refer to something that has no existing word to describe it. The word sniglet was coined by comedian Rich Hall, who invented words for things that had no specific words to describe them. One example of Hall’s sniglets (besides the word sniglet itself) is “doork,” a person who pushes a door labeled “Pull.”


A neologism is a new word, phrase, or expression. For example, the rise of the Internet and social media gave way to many neologisms such as selfie, crowdsource, and cryptocurrency.


A contranym, also known as a Janus word, is a word with multiple meanings that are opposites or near opposites of each other.

Contranym examples

  • buckle = “to fasten” and “to collapse under pressure”
  • oversight = “a careless mistake” and “careful supervision”
  • rent = “to borrow with payment” and “to let someone else borrow with payment”


An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two opposite words are used together.

Oxymoron examples

  • She spoke in a loud whisper.
  • He was the wisest fool in the land.
  • In the end, it was a tragic happiness.

Take a look at the difference between oxymorons and paradoxes.


Malapropism is the act of mistakenly using words, especially similarly sounding words, in a way that causes a nonsensical sentence.

Malapropism examples

  • He was wearing a banana on his head. (bandana)
  • We filled the picture with lemonade. (pitcher)
  • The runners prepared for the big meat. (meet)


A counterword is a word that has developed a more general meaning than it originally had. Counterwords have many different meanings and/or are used so generally that they become essentially meaningless.

Counterword examples

  • good
  • nice
  • cute

Euphemism and dysphemism

A euphemism is a phrase that uses innocent language to describe an explicit, unpleasant, or offensive thing. A dysphemism, on the other hand, is a phrase that intentionally uses harsh language to describe a neutral thing.

Euphemism examples

  • pass away = die
  • gentlemen’s club = strip club
  • in between jobs = unemployed

Dysphemism examples

  • trash panda = a raccoon
  • ambulance chaser = a personal injury lawyer
  • chop shop = a garage that steals car parts

Weasel word

A weasel word is an ambiguous word that makes a statement sound less forthright or powerful.

Weasel word examples

  • I might know the answer to the question.
  • This is likely to be a bad idea.
  • The business will probably bounce back from the bad quarter.


A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent the whole thing.

Synecdoche examples

  • She bought a new set of wheels. (She bought a car.)
  • The sultan had an army of 10,000 spears. (The soldiers holding the spears were there, too.)
  • My dad had a lot of hungry mouths to feed. (My dad had to feed a lot of children.)


Zeugma, also called syllepsis, is a rhetorical device in which one word is used with two other words so that either the meaning changes with each word or only one of the uses makes sense.

Zeugma examples

  • He closed his door and his heart to his sister.
  • I broke the record and my foot during the race.
  • She caught three trout and a cold.

Keep Learning New Words Every Day!

Get the Word of The Day delivered straight to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Amphiboly is ambiguity in speech caused by confusing use of grammar or sentence construction.

Amphiboly examples

  • The students were hurt by the teachers’ strike.
  • She took pictures of the chimp dressed like a clown.
  • We as a nation can do better when it comes to drunk driving.


Antanaclasis is a type of word play in which a repeated word is used to mean two different things in the same sentence.

Antanaclasis examples

  • The class was taught by a man with no class.
  • My computer is full of bugs, and that always bugs me.
  • If we had stuck together, we wouldn’t have gotten stuck.


Sesquipedalian is an adjective that means someone or something likes to use long words—like sesquipedalian. Sesquipedalian is also used as a noun to refer to a word with many syllables. A sesquipedalian person would be a fan of big words like embourgeoisement or antidisestablishmentarianism.


A snowclone is a cliche or templated phrase that can have different words filled into it to describe new situations. For example, the phrase “X is the new Y” is a commonly used snowclone to describe things like colors as in “pink is the new blue.”

Snowclone examples

  • The only good X is a dead X.
  • To X or not to X, that is the question.
  • In space, no one can hear you X.

Kangaroo word

A kangaroo word is a word that contains its own synonym within it—like how a kangaroo carries a smaller kangaroo in its pouch. The smaller synonym’s letters are also spelled in the correct order in the larger word.

Kangaroo word examples

  • encourage (“urge”)
  • catacomb (“tomb”)
  • chicken (“hen”)

Read more about kangaroo words.

Hop over to take the quiz

Now that you know about the fun and fascinating way we use words, and the words the describe these uses, never leave them behind by reviewing our word list when you need a refresher. Think you have a way with words? Then take our quiz on the cool words you’ve encountered here.

If you think this article was fun, wait until you read about the different forms of word play we have!

Previous Puns, Palindromes, And More: 14 Types Of Wordplay Next 14 Words That Are Spelled Right But Look So Wrong