# What is it called when two words are combined by overlapping each other?

Say I have the word "hotel" and "telephone." I then combine them together to make "hotelephone." Note that there is no truncation in this example. It is not a portmanteau. I have seen multiple examples of this, sometimes when people make very long strings of intermeshed words. I thought of the word for it earlier, but now I've forgot, and I'm totally stumped. It seemed like a question for an English stack exchange.

• "there is no truncation in this example." Yes there is. "tel" has been truncated from one of the words, otherwise it would be "hoteltelephone". Aug 16, 2021 at 12:08
• In Richard Osman's House of Games this is called a smash. More precisely the final round is called Answer Smash when there are two quiz clues and contestants have to smash the answers together in this way. Aug 16, 2021 at 15:31
• @SelfEvident I think "no truncation" is the best way to describe what they mean for lack of better terms. Definitions lack nuance. We can say that there is no truncation because both words are complete. Both "hotel" and "telephone" are completely present in the word. There's just some overlap. Using "truncation" this way, we can differentiate between cases like this one and overlapping words that definitely have truncation like "motel" ("motor hotel" with "motor" being truncated by 2 letters, "hotel" by one letter, and having an overlap of 2 letters).
– JoL
Aug 16, 2021 at 22:05
• @SelfEvident Otherwise, one would have to say that "motor" was truncated somewhere between 2 and 4 letters and "hotel" somewhere between 1 and 3 letters. That just isn't a useful way to use the word "truncation" in this context.
– JoL
Aug 16, 2021 at 22:10
• @joL This is the meaning of truncation I was giving in the question. Aug 17, 2021 at 3:34

## 5 Answers

In computer science, a word that contains other words (hotelephone and hotelephone, both words are present) is called a

superstring.

Your example happens to be the shortest common superstring of hotel and telephone; there is no word shorter than hotelephone that contains both hotel and telephone. It's an interesting problem to compute shortest common superstrings.

• This is exactly the answer I was looking for. I was actually using this in a mathematical application, but thought it might have a linguistic name. The problem with the other answers is that none of the portmanteaus they give as examples have the property of contains both words in full as I requested, but a superstring is a combination of two words which contains both in full. Aug 17, 2021 at 3:31
• @Electro-blob Don't Wiki's palimony, anecdotage and the example I just added, alcoholiday, qualify? Aug 17, 2021 at 10:21
• @Electro-blob, I would say that "shortest common superstring" is the more proper one, since "superstring" also includes other strings that simply concatenate the two words, or with extra letters, etc. Aug 18, 2021 at 2:41
• I would note that "superstring" is a programming description, not a linguistic name or description. Aug 18, 2021 at 21:07
• @DjinTonic I don't see what two words palimony is combining. P and alimony? Anecdotage truncated the e at the end of anecdote. Alcoholiday works because it contains alcohol and holiday in full. Aug 19, 2021 at 21:41

Note that in your example, one "-tel-" from the two is dropped, so there is truncation. If there were no truncation, then your word would be a compound word.

Describing the term portmanteau, Wikipedia says:

A portmanteau (/pɔːrtˈmæntoʊ/, /ˌpɔːrtmænˈtoʊ/) or portmanteau word (from "portmanteau (luggage)") is a blend of words in which parts of multiple words are combined into a new word, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog, or motel, from motor and hotel. In linguistics, a portmanteau is a single morph that is analyzed as representing two (or more) underlying morphemes.

This term is different from contractions or compound words:

A portmanteau word is similar to a contraction, but contractions are formed from words that would otherwise appear together in sequence, such as do and not to make don't, whereas a portmanteau is formed by combining two or more existing words that all relate to a single concept.

A portmanteau also differs from a compound, which does not involve the truncation of parts of the stems of the blended words. For instance, starfish is a compound, not a portmanteau, of star and fish, as it includes both words in full.

M-W sheds more light on this phenomenon:

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Alice asks Humpty Dumpty to explain words from the nonsense poem "Jabberwocky" and is told that slithy is "like a portmanteau-there are two meanings packed up into one word." Although slithy hasn't caught on (it's made up of slimy and lithe, according to Humpty Dumpty), another portmanteau invented by Carroll has in fact found a place in the language: chortle (supposedly from chuckle and snort).

English includes other portmanteaus, too, such as brunch (breakfast and lunch) and dramedy (drama and comedy). Following Carroll's lead, English speakers have come to call these fairly common words by the not-so-common name for a type of traveling bag with two compartments. The technical (and simpler) term for such words is blend.

• Your answer seems negated by the OP's assertion Note that there is no truncation in this example. It is not a portmanteau. Aug 16, 2021 at 12:03
• @Greybeard Well, I would argue that there is truncation. One "-tel-" has disappeared. It is a portmanteau. If there was no truncation, it would have been a compound.
– fev
Aug 16, 2021 at 12:05
• I'd say that "hotelephone" is a portmanteau regardless of what the OP thinks. Aug 16, 2021 at 13:49
• I agree that "hotelephone" is a type of portmanteau, but OP seems to want a more specific word for this particular type (if one exists). Aug 16, 2021 at 15:45
• @DarrelHoffman If you check the link I gave for "mot-valise", you will find this: "A mot-valise is the French word for what we call a portmanteau in English." The fact that the word is borrowed from French, does not make its use less English.
– fev
Aug 17, 2021 at 13:12

haplologic/overlapping blends

From the sources below, it appears that overlapping blend is a subtype of haplologic blend.

A blend (sometimes blend word, lexical blend, portmanteau or portmanteau word) is a word formed from parts of two or more other words.
...
Overlapping blends are those for which the ingredients' consonants, vowels or even syllables overlap to some extent. The overlap can be of different kinds. These are also called haplologic blends

There may be an overlap that is both phonological and orthographic, but with no other shortening:

anecdote + dotage → anecdotage
pal + alimony → palimony

... Wiki

Haplology is a name given to syllable suppression due to repetition of sound. When two successive syllables have their prominent elements in common, syllable syncope is likely to ensue. Haplological blends would then be forms in which one part of the compound is eliminated because it occurs in another part. Blends—Their Relation To English Word Formation (2014)

One of the examples given in Blends (in addition to Wiki's anecdotage) is alcoholiday, in which, like the OP's ho[tel]ephone, both overlapping words are present in their entirety: alco[hol]iday.

Another type [of error] includes "Haplologies and other Telescopic Errors" ...i.e. when a word is shortened or two words are merged by deleting one or more syllables or syllable parts to ease pronunciation. Haplology generally occurs when two words are blended where they overlap, as in muddle←mud puddle, or nitness←Nixon witness. Overlapping blends, such as adaptitute [1806) adapt + aptitude (OED3), or affluenza [1973]← affluence + influenza ... could have their origin or model in spontaneous phenomena like the above-mentioned haplologies. Analogy in Word Formation (2017)

haplology
contraction of a word by omission of one or more similar sounds or syllables (as in mineralogy for hypothetical mineralology or \ˈprä-blē\ for probably)

American philologist Maurice Bloomfield recognized the tendency to drop one of a pair of similar syllables a little over a hundred years ago. He has been credited with joining the combining form "hapl-" or "haplo-" (meaning "single") with "-logy" (meaning "oral or written expression") to create "haplology" as a name for the phenomenon. m-w

• Wikipedia in turn cites Wood (1911), 'Iterative, Blends and "Streckformen"'. The term "haplologic blend" appears on the 21st page (numbered 21 at the top and 177 at the bottom). The trouble is, most of Wood's examples are not the sort of thing OP is after. Some are (French "vaticanaille", English "refereader"), but most have only a part of the syllable repeated. Aug 17, 2021 at 8:42
• @TimPederick (1) See the definition/example I've added. (2) You say most, so some of Wood's examples are a whole syllable? (3) the m-w definition of haplology has "one or more similar sounds or syllables." Wiki's definition is supported. Aug 17, 2021 at 9:56
• OP’s example has the words joined by a complete overlap of the end of one and the start of the other. Wood’s example "vaticanaille = vatican + canaille" certainly meets this criterion, and "Refereader = Referee + reader" arguably does (in sound if not in spelling). But most of his examples don’t, e.g. "coronotions = coronation + notions", German "balaff" = "baff + blaff". So I’m wondering whether "haplological blend" is specific enough to what OP wants, if it encompasses these other examples too. Aug 17, 2021 at 10:02
• I don't think it has to be syllables, and I misspoke when I implied that it did. By "part of the syllable", what I really meant was a part that isn't a strict suffix of the first word and prefix of the second. The "n…tion" in "coronation + notions"; the "aff"/"b" in "baff + blaff". Interestingly, some of Wood's examples in the previous section ("blends", not "haplological blends") fit OP's criterion just fine: "sneekretly" = "sneak + secretly", "wegotism" = "we + egotism". Aug 17, 2021 at 10:24
• See the OP's comment under the checked answer. Aug 17, 2021 at 10:48

As others have stated, I believe your assertion that it not a portmanteau is incorrect.

Tom7 has a video describing portmanteaus and takes it to the extreme by creating one containing every word in English.

• I think the assertion is not that it is not a portmanteau but rather that the category they are interested in is not portmanteaus. Most portmanteaus do not include the entirety of bot words. Aug 17, 2021 at 8:22

All the other answers plus sometimes concatenation.

• This would benefit from a definition and your explanation of how it fits. Please take a moment to see the help center on how to answer, and welcome. Aug 18, 2021 at 0:31
• Concatenation is putting one word immediately after the other, not combining the overlaps. Aug 18, 2021 at 14:14
• Thankyou barmar, I have only ever seen it used and not had it explained to me so just knew it was some attachment of two words. Aug 20, 2021 at 13:54
• @ColinEllis If you took the time to see the tour of this site, you probably noticed that one line answers are discouraged here. You answer could be improved by providing some research. i would encourage you to do that.
– fev
Aug 20, 2021 at 13:57
• Fev I'm 54,i took a tour of the site and its rules along with a hundred others a couple of decades ago, there are a lot of commonalities that make sense, politeness, logical structured arguments, sentences etc. Thank you for taking the time to help me fit in better. Aug 20, 2021 at 14:07