Two very well established examples I can think of are:

I guess I am meaning the process where two words are artificially combined into one, rather than when two words are combined to describe a new concept or item (e.g. Hatstand or lamppost). I suppose the distinction is blurry, but is there a word nonetheless?


4 Answers 4


In linguistics, a blend word is a word formed from parts of two or more other words. The process is called blending and the result is a blend word.

A portmanteau word typically combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog. More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings, for instance, the term "wurly" when describing hair that is both wavy and curly.

The word "portmanteau" was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871).

I'm not entirely sure if there is a technical distinction between portmanteaus and blends or if the latter is a hypernym of the former. There is some suggestion that portmanteaux specifically combine the beginning of the first word and the ending of the second. But I've been unable to confirm the validity of this distinction and I've found that they're mostly used interchangeably. Any information on this matter is welcome.

P.S. ELU has tags for both these terms: , .

  • 2
    A blend is normally made from word that would normally appear together, for example 'simcast' from 'simultaneous broadcast', while a portmanteau is made from words connected by theme, as in the OPs guesstimate made from 'guess' and 'estimate'. Nov 15, 2012 at 13:36
  • 1
    @RoaringFish Please see [this section] of Wikipedia's page for blend. It suggests that simulcast is a portmanteau (and a type of blend). I've seen your theory mentioned elsewhere as well. Nov 15, 2012 at 13:45

I don't think there is a specific word for creating a portmanteau, but one usually coins new worlds, so the best expression would be coining portmanteaus.

  • Minting is also sometimes used, although coining remains more popular. Note that the noun portamento means “A gliding or passing continuously from one pitch to another, in singing, or in playing a violin or similar instrument.”, which begs for a more musical verb to show the portamento in one’s newly minted portmanteaux. :)
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2012 at 13:21
  • @tchrist: Why not compose?
    – Jon Purdy
    Nov 15, 2012 at 17:16
  • @JonPurdy Well sure, you could. I do find compose to be “fancier” word than coin or mint, and one that has quite differing connotations besides.
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2012 at 17:21
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    "I don't think there is a specific word..." Oh, come on, the answer is right there in the question. How about to coinmanteau? Or perhaps, following the word @tchrist mentioned, to portminteau.
    – Ben Lee
    Nov 16, 2012 at 19:51

The examples in the question are not compounds in the usual sense, since in each case one of the words is incomplete. I agree with SF that they are portmanteau words. ("Portmanteau" originally means "suitcase". It was common in England in Lewis Carroll's time. As Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice, "You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portmanteau#Origin.)

  • guesstimate: The coda of "guess" and the first syllable of "estimate" are pronounced the same, /εs/. In this word they are merged: pronounced only once (not "guess-estimate"), and the "ess" of "guess" is all that's written. You could say that those identical parts of the two words overlap in the portmanteau.
  • chillax: The first syllable of "relax" is completely gone here: we just have "chill" + "-lax". The only overlap is the /l/, and again it is written as in the first word.

I call it compounding, as it produces a compound word.

See Noun 2 under compound here http://www.thefreedictionary.com/compounding:

Linguistics A word that consists either of two or more elements that are independent words, such as loudspeaker, baby-sit, or high school, or of specially modified combining forms of words, such as Greek philosophia, from philo-, "loving," and sophia, "wisdom."

  • -1. Compounding is exactly what this isn’t. Compounding is even specifically mentioned in the question (‘hatstand’, ‘lamppost’) as not what the asker is looking for. Compounding operates on entire words (sometimes in special compounding forms, but still entire words), while blending cuts words into pieces and mashes them together across morphemes and even phonemes. Jul 16, 2013 at 23:18

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