What is a Portmanteau Word?

A few editors at work recently led a training session on editing. They included this video by Anne Curzan from the University of Michigan and then led a discussion on portmanteau words. (If you enjoy learning about the English language and you’ve not watched any Anne Curzan videos then I heartily recommend them to you. Her TED Talk is excellent.)

Before this training session I didn’t know what a portmanteau was, nor did I know about portmanteau words. However, I use and make up new portmanteau words all the time, usually when I’m joking around. (Have you ever had a panconwich? It’s a pancake bacon sandwich, and they’re delicious.)

portmanteauHere’s a list of portmanteaus that we used in our training session. As is mentioned in the video, some of these fill a void in the English language (adorkable, ginormous), while others are just a shorthand way of saying two words (cyborg, bit). You may be surprised by some of these.

  1. Biopic = biography + picture
  2. Brangelina = Brand + Angelina
  3. Fanzine = fan + magazine
  4. Cronut = croissant + doughnut
  5. Spork = spoon + fork
  6. Turducken = turkey + duck + chicken (this is likely the ingredients of McNuggets, which is another portmanteau)
  7. Fracket = fraternity + jacket
  8. Guyliner = guy + eyeliner
  9. Jeggings = jeans + leggings
  10. Mizzle = mist + drizzle (not to be confused with fo shizzle or off the hizzle, neither of which are portmanteaus)
  11. Snark = snide + remark
  12. Skype = Sky + peer to peer (I didn’t get this one either)
  13. Sporgery = spam + forgery
  14. Sheeple = sheep + people
  15. Wallaroo = wallaby + kangaroo
  16. Rom-com = romantic + comedy
  17. Flavorite = flavor + favorite
  18. Meld = melt + weld
  19. Motorcade = motor + cavalcade
  20. Satisficing = satisfying and sacrificing (watching Anne Hathaway movies is satisficing. My wife is happy while I just grin and bear it.)
  21. Bit = binary + digit
  22. Netiquette = Internet + etiquette
  23. Prancercise = prance + exercise
  24. Pinterest = pin + interest
  25. Cyborg = cybernetic + organism

I was talking with a friend today and we made up a new portmanteau: rejuvadraining. It’s how you feel after you work at a writers’ conference, both rejuvenated and drained at the same time.

What other portmanteaus can you think of? Have you ever made one up?
Leave them in a comment below.


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