Is there a term for a word that occurs unbroken within another word? For example, the word "fun" in "funeral", or "drag" in "hydragog".

The closest thing I could find from my search was the term "kangaroo word", which refers to a word that contains the letters of its synonym, in the correct order (though not necessarily consecutively).

I am currently using "substring" as a substitute in my essay. Unfortunately, "substring" applies to any selection of consecutive characters from the containing word, and doesn't convey the fact that the subset is a complete English word.

I have tagged this , but I would appreciate single words as well. I will have to use the term quite often, so the less awkward it is, the better.

2 Answers 2


There is a historical "question" on ELU about Matryoshka words (matryoshka is a Russian doll which contains identical smaller dolls) which might provide a term to use, although that would be easier to apply to the long word rather than the substring.

It seems that kangaroo word is rather apt, but it's extremely limiting to apply it to a word containing self-synonyms. I see no reason why you should not use joey word to describe the short word which is included in the longer one. You might need to explain why you have chosen "joey" as it may not be obvious that it's the term for a baby kangaroo; and if you use it as an ordinary noun you may need to set it off in italics to indicate its technical use:

The word hydragog contains the joey words Hydra, drag and agog.

  • 1
    My recommendation would be similar: define a short term early in the paper, and use it from that point forward. In addition to joey words, terms like substring words or full-word substrings could be used.
    – J.R.
    Feb 24, 2013 at 16:20
  • Does 'joey word' qualify as an acceptable term? 'Is there a term?' (admittedly there are some examples of 'joey word' is different from 'Can you suggest a term you would have to explain as it is so rarely used?' Dec 13, 2016 at 23:38

I've always thought that it is a TMESIS, but I could be wrong.

e.g. *abso-bloody-lutely *Scunthorpe (blame Jo Brand)

  • Could you provide its definition as well. And by the way, who's Jo Brand? (I know she's a comedienne—which some may dispute— but I doubt anyone does outside the UK)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 18, 2014 at 7:32
  • Abso-bloody-lutely isn't a word in the English language. Nov 21, 2014 at 17:16
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    @AsadSaeeduddin Of course it is. What other language would you have it be? Mar 17, 2017 at 21:20
  • @JanusBahsJacquet The question presumes it is a word in any language Mar 17, 2017 at 21:52
  • @AsadSaeeduddin It is: in English. Expletive infixation is a productive (though quite limited) phenomenon in English, and there's nothing wrong with abso-bloody-lutely. Mar 17, 2017 at 21:59

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