Portmanteau Words: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Melissa Iturralde

Melissa is an elementary/middle school teacher and has a master's degree in educational leadership.

This lesson will teach you all about having fun with the English language through portmanteau! Portmanteau is the art of blending two or more words together to make a new word with its own special meaning. So chillax, sit back and follow along as we explore the meaning of portmanteau, its function and examples used today. Let's unpack our writing suitcase to discover a technique that may not be so new to you, after all!

What is Portmanteau?

Don't let the actual word portmanteau confuzzle you! This literary device is a fun way to pack two or more words together to create a new word with a different meaning. The actual word portmanteau means suitcase, as it is derived from the two words porter, meaning carry, and manteau, meaning cloak. Often times you will see the art of portmanteau in writing talked about like unpacking your suitcase to write creatively. Some modern day portmanteau words have been added to the dictionary to become part of our official language because they are used so often in mainstream society.

Why Use Portmanteau?

The real question should be, Why WOULDN'T an author want to use portmanteau? This literary device is pretty fantabulous and adds a lot of flair to writing. Often times we look at a writing assignment as a dry, clean-cut assignment. Think about adding portmanteau to your drafts and watch your writing come alive! There is nothing better than channeling your own creativity in your writing because it helps you own your ideas. Furthermore, portmanteau is a fun way to attract your readers and to add a bit of originality to your writing at the same time!

Lewis Carroll

Most commonly, Lewis Carroll is referred to as using portmanteau in his novel, Through the Looking Glass (1871). At one point in this book, the main character, Alice, asks Humpty Dumpty to decode the meaning of the poem, 'Jabberwocky'. The word slithy in the poem means slimy and lithe. Another word that is derived from this novel is chortle. Chortle comes from the two words chuckle and snort, and it is used commonly in our language today. Another example in Through the Looking Glass is when the Jabberwock galumphs, which is a combination of a gallop with triumph. It is evident that Lewis Carroll lets his creativity shine through his use of portmanteau, even in the late 1800s!

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