Try Our Apps


Word of the Day
Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Definitions for portmanteau

  1. Also called portmanteau word. Linguistics. a word made by putting together parts of other words, as motel, made from motor and hotel, brunch, from breakfast and lunch, or guesstimate, from guess and estimate.
  2. a case or bag to carry clothing in while traveling, especially a leather trunk or suitcase that opens into two halves.

Learn something
new every day


Thank youfor signing up
Get the Word of the Day Email
Citations for portmanteau
"Well, 'slithy' means 'lithe and slimy.' 'Lithe' is the same as 'active.' You see it's like a portmanteau--there are two meanings packed up into one word." Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1871
Portmanteaus, or “blends”, according to Ian Roberts, linguistics professor at the University of Cambridge, have been around for more than a century. They exist "mainly as a journalistic fad"—to describe a phenomenon to a mass audience. For example, the word “smog” was first coined in 1905 by one Dr H.A des Voeux of the Coal Smoke Abatement Society to describe the smoky fog, or “smog”, prevalent in British cities. M.S.L.J., "From smog to mother fubber," The Economist, August 12, 2013
Origin of portmanteau
A portmanteau was originally a kind of bag or case that opened by a hinge into two equal parts, e.g., a Gladstone bag or a suitcase. Lewis Carroll changed its meaning forever when Humpty Dumpty explicates the nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” that Alice recites to him in chapter six of Through the Looking Glass (1871): “Well, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy.’… You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.” Humpty Dumpty so carried the day that modern linguists and grammarians routinely use portmanteau and portmanteau word as technical terms. Portmanteau in its original sense entered English in the 16th century.