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Fun with Portmanteaus

I love playing with words.

The English language is full of quirks and oddities—things like puns, palindromes, tongue twisters, spoonerisms, and more. But have you heard of portmanteaus?

a portmanteau or large suitecase

What in the World Is a Portmanteau?

I’m glad you asked!

The word portmanteau (pôrt-mănʹ-tō) refers to a large leather suitcase that opens into two hinged compartments. The word is a blend of two French words: porter, which means to carry, and manteau, which means cloak or mantle.

When we’re talking about language, portmanteau takes on a different meaning. In linguistics, a portmanteau is a word that is created when the sounds and meanings of two different words are blended into one.

Still curious about the origin of portmanteaus? The video below offers a light-hearted look at how a few well-known portmanteaus might have gotten their start. 😊

Well, as entertaining as that was, the concept of portmanteau words is actually attributed to storyteller Lewis Carroll. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice asks Humpty Dumpty to help her make sense of the Jabberwocky poem. Humpty Dumpty explains:

“Well, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe’ and ‘slimy’; ‘lithe’ is the same as ‘active.’
You see it’s like a portmanteau–there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

Humpty Dumpty was exactly right! Portmanteau words (sometimes just called portmanteaus) include brunch (breakfast and lunch), smog (smoke and fog), motel (motor and hotel), and splatter (splash and spatter), to name a few. There are many portmanteaus in the English language, with more being created every day!

Here are a few more examples:

examples of portmanteaus

As you can see, portmanteaus are essentially just “made-up” words that have worked their way into our everyday language. The concept of made-up words is pretty funny to children. When I talked about portmanteaus with my children when they were young, my daughter came up with sweems (sweet dreams) right on the spot.

Play with Portmanteaus

Would you like to have a little fun playing with portmanteaus and build your child’s vocabulary all at the same time? Download our “Bingo Smash-Up!” game to play with your children!

Bingo Smash-Up portmanteau Download

How about you? Can you think of a portmanteau word? Please share in the comments below!

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Sue

says:

When our daughter was little she would call “windshield wipers” – “windshipers” :)

Kirsten

says:

When my daughter was little, she made up Zeeper for zookeeper.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kirsten,
I like “zeeper”! That would be an awesome official job title. :D

Dawn

says:

Love the fun language lesson!

Hollie

says:

Love Love Love all the activities that AAR/AAS has offered for free; my children are reading and spelling aloud!

Tara

says:

This actually looks like a game my kids might enjoy. We already do some portmanteaus that we haven’t heard anywhere else, like ‘linner’ — lunch and dinner, lol.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tara,
We do “linner” too.

This game is a lot of fun and helps kids to start recognizing portmanteaus and even wanting to make up their own!

Angelina Vickers

says:

Wow – what a fun language game!

Aimee

says:

This looks like a FUN way to introduce some new words. And they won’t even realize they are learning something new!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Aimee,
Even if they do realize they are learning something new, it’ll still be fun!

Pamela

says:

Thank you for another fun twist in teaching vocabulary

Lacey Murchison

says:

What level would this be appropriate to introduce? Thanks.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lacey,
Done orally, children could have fun with portmanteaus even before they can read. It is easy to hear that brunch is a mix of breakfast and lunch. However, if you wanted your child to read the bingo words, it would probably be best with All About Reading level 2 or above. Students might still need some help with some of the words, but after learning some syllable division rules in AAR 2 many of the words would be straightforward.

Lacey

says:

Thank you.

Liz

says:

Brilliant! The things I’m learning when teaching my son. I look forward to playing this one.

Marie

says:

Thank you for this wonderful Bingo game. Its going to be so much fun. Cant wait to play with my son.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Marie. I hope your son has a lot of fun with it!

Vanessa

says:

Just printed off the BINGO game and sent it through my laminator. Need to get it cut and add it to tomorrow’s fun things to do. Thank you for a fun way to explore words!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Vanessa,
Let us know how it goes!

I am excited to try this bingo game. I think it will be a lot of fun for my children and will be a great way to explore words for his speech therapy and remedial reading!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Robyn,
Yes, games like these would be a nice way to add a child’s therapy. Have fun!

Andrea

says:

Great word fun!!

Amber

says:

Oh! What a great way to spend an afternoon!

Amanda villalobos

says:

Loved the video. Fun way to learn about this interesting and different piece of the English language.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Amanda!

Krystal

says:

Sounds great!

Jennifer H

says:

Parents can learn a lot from teaching these lessons too! Very interesting.

Crystal

says:

I didn’t know about this! Interesting!

Antiqué

says:

Thank you! My niece is really beginning to find the fun in words; she’ll love this! Some of us are using the word “hanitizer” because it’s smoother and faster than “hand sanitizer!” It came from the 2-year old vocabulary of another niece.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Antiqué,
I hope your niece has a lot of fun with our Bingo Smash Up game! Hanitizer seems to be much more common than I thought, however. Many people her have mentioned it.

Jean

says:

Neat! Never knew they were called this!

Jennifer B

says:

I would choose level 1

Kasey

says:

Interesting! Never knew that’s what they were called.

Audra

says:

How fun! Might have to do a portmanteau booklet to go with our ever-growing hominym booklet!

Charissa

says:

Fun topic! Thank you!

Katy Linsky

says:

This is such a fun topic!

Josie Iverson

says:

Thank you for your helpful posts!

Anna

says:

My husband made up the word gription, meaning grip and traction. Fun blog post by the way!

Brandi Sumpter

says:

My kids and I love to make up portmanteaus but I had no idea there was a word for it! How fun!

lisa

says:

we’ve used the beginning levels of all about spelling and they are GREAT! My daughter who hates reading with a passion due to dyslexia loves All about spelling an actually asks to do spelling with the magnetic letters and cards.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lisa,
Thank you for letting us know just how much your daughter is enjoying All About Spelling! We love hearing this!

Rebecca Boles

says:

I had no idea there was an actual term for this!

We just started this year with my 5 year old, until now I had no idea he had trouble with the idea of rhyming, but with the pre- reading program we found out. I am so glad we did not do a Level One reading program in another program. He for sure needed the prep. We look forward to reading level one soon and spelling one. :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
Yes! Making sure your young learners have all the reading readiness skills necessary ensures their best possibilities of reading success. Thank you for letting us know much your child is learning with our Pre-reading program!

Lovie Sellers

says:

I love that I am always learning something along with my son. And I love, love how much AAS has helped with his reading.

Christina

says:

Fun with words!

Crystal Navarro

says:

One we use a lot with teenagers in the house is hungry+angry=HANGRY!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Crystal,
I’m on my third teenager, with another soon-to-be teen. I completely understand hangry!

Jen

says:

Hm never knew that was a thing! Thanks for all the great tips and info :)

Ashley

says:

I love all the great info… keep on sharing!

Jennifer

says:

Hmmm… so those magazine tabloids are actually using portmanteaus when they smash up a couple’s names?! I learned something new today. :) And PS- we LOVE AAReading & AASpelling at our house!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
Yes! Portmanteaus is just one of many ways the media and individuals coin new words that make it into our vocabularies. Another is taking a noun and using it as a verb. We now “google” everything, whether we are using Google or not!

Awesome, will have to try this!

Cheryl E

says:

I love All About Learning Press! I not only love teaching it to my children but learning new things myself like portmanteaus 😊

Colleen

says:

We live AAS/R!! Used with two kids (so far) & will continue!

salena clark

says:

I love this idea, and playing with words.

Angela

says:

So fun! Our kids have made up quite a few over the past few years (and we have too :) )
Salt + Pepper = Spepper
Hand + Sanitizer = Hanitizer
Church + Liturgical = Churchical
Construction + Instructions = Constructions

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Angela,
I’m thinking our game maybe should have has hanitizer on it, as so many have brought it up. Apparently, it’s getting common enough that it might enter the general vocabulary!

Jessica Swan

says:

This was very entertaining. A fun way to introduce portmanteau.

Cabot Mama

says:

My now 7 year old still uses a portmanteau she created when just 2 years old: tint (pronounced with a long i sound). Combination of tiny and bit; or short for “not one tiny bit.” She often says it in the following phrase: “not a tint.” Does it need a Silent E at the end to make the i long? Or can it be one of those words that is spelled the same as another word but pronounced differently? :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cabot Mama,
I would be inclined to spell her word in such a way that the pronunciation would be clear to any reader. Tinte, maybe. Or, how about tynt or tighnt? Wait, how about a contraction? Tine’t. That would be the most obvious way to get a reader unfamiliar with the word to read it with the correct pronunciation. However, you can spell it tint and pronounce it as you want. There are a number of homographs in English.

Trina Bowen

says:

So great!

Julia Honeycutt

says:

This is great.

Julia Honeycutt

says:

This is fantastic.

DC

says:

I am glad to find some fun words for my kids who struggle so much.

Dianna

says:

I’ll definitely use this information for brain breaks to energize my students’ minds and incorporate movement for some short bursts of knowledge and fun.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Dianna,
What a great idea to use this game as a break activity between activities that require more focus! Thank you for sharing it.

L Sell

says:

Nice! Thank you for the game…should be fun!

Jeannie

says:

Very interesting!

Carol

says:

I enjoy using the all about reading curriculum. It’s very easy to follow and teach.

Olivia

says:

My kids and I were talking very recently about words like “spork” and “brunch.” It’s nice to know what they’re called!

vitaChristiana

says:

I love word origins. They give language so much texture and empower the speaker! Thanks for doing this!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Christiana,
I love learning word origins too!

Michelle

says:

Well now the teacher learned something!! Which is actually pretty common in our house. I didn’t know that was the fancy term for putting two words together!

jray

says:

I realize I have taken for granted how/why some of our favorite words are created – as portmanteaus!

Andra

says:

Portmanteaus are fun! My children will enjoy learning about them! I am so thankful to have AAR Levels pre, 1 & 2 and love teaching them to my children! We are also about to start AAS1!

Omar Ochoa

says:

Actually fantabulous, and bombastic. You are really nice with all these reachable materials.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Omar,
Oh, I love bombastic!

Jennifer Dearman

says:

My kids had a lot of fun with this. I am so thankful for things like this

Diana

says:

Best part of being a homeschool mom? I learn new things too! This is awesome. I didn’t know there was a word for this.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Diana,
I agree! I love learning new things along with my children.

Jennifer

says:

So fun! I never knew there was a word to describe silly combined words, and some are not so silly.

Mindy

says:

This is really fun! We are definitely trying these out after AAS this morning! Thanks!

I had never heard of a portmanteaus! Now I will have to share this with my kids. We smash words together all the time. Not necessarily because we mean too. Just when we talk really fast the words come together and we make a new word for around the house. I can’t think of any right now as its pretty late at night. :)

Becky

says:

We have used “lundin” for years to describe a combined lunch and dinner meal :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Becky,
I like “lundin”. It sounds fancier than “linner”, which is what we have called a late lunch/early dinner meal.

Melanie

says:

We call this meal “Lunner”

Carissa

says:

I never knew that moped was a combination of motor and pedal! That’s awesome. This is fun stiff

Tonya

says:

Fascinating!

Melissa

says:

Brunch! Lupper

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
We don’t use the word supper much, so we have “linner” instead of “lupper”!

Sarah

says:

What fun! Thanks so much for another fun activity!

Teresa Todd Reidsma

says:

Another wonderful idea!

anneta

says:

Thank you for all the great information. It is a treat to read your posts.

Carolyn

says:

Sounds like so much fun! Can’t wait to use this with my kids.

Gwen

says:

Always love your bonus learning ideas! This is another great one!

Karen

says:

Seems like anything can be a portmanteau. People accidentally (or lazily) jumble up their words and something new is born!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Karen,
Yes! That is how they are often made.

Nikki F.

says:

Very entertaining and informative. Easy to watch and read in my precious few spare minutes! Excited to share with my kiddos.

Carole

says:

This is so fun. My kids love the word spork and were trying to figure out what a spoon, fork, knife combo would be.

Lauren

says:

Swiss Army Knife? swarmy …

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Carole,
A sporf maybe? Interesting, such things have been invented and the invented calls them splayds.

Rachel O

says:

How fun!

Sam Maixner

says:

What level would these activities be good for?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sam,
To play independently, I would think that a student would need to be in All About Reading 3 or 4 for this Bingo Smash Up game. However, with help, even non-readers could enjoy playing and learning about portmanteaus.

C Hoosier

says:

We just finished reading The BFG by R.Dahl, and this sounds like the perfect follow up activity!

Becca

says:

I love it! Thank you so much for sharing these!

Jennifer

says:

So my daughters are genius at making up their own portmanteaus. We use hanatizer not hand sanitizer for germy hands. And certain scary animals are terrocious not terrible and ferocious. These BINGO cards look like a ton of fun for any age.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
I love your daughters’ portmanteaus! I might have to steal “terrocious” for my own use.

Michelle

says:

Love this

Amy

says:

I’m going to go have fun with this with my daughter today!

DoRena Wirgau

says:

I love playing with language, and I love these ideas for sharing the fun with my kids! I’ve never heard this term before — I love how All About Reading and All about Spelling are improving m knowledge and skills as a teach. Thank you for all these resources!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, DoRena. We hope you and your children enjoy this game and learning about portmanteaus!

Alison Roedel

says:

What a fun way of learning and playing with words!

CarrieAnne

says:

This is great!

Angela

says:

Love these ideas – make learning fun.

Anna

says:

Fun info, thanks!

Becky Mebane

says:

I really like the information about portmanteaus. Thank you for sharing.

Sounds like a fun way to get the kids learning! Thanks for sharing.

Diana

says:

Sounds fun! I can wait to try it with my kids!

Sarah M

says:

Thank you, this looks fun!

Corrie Keller

says:

My sons will love this

Eryka Sewell

says:

That was such a fun video and post. I look forward to playing it with my girls. Thank you!

Susy Poffinbarger

says:

I have a friend who basically makes this a hobby. I love it and try to help my kids come up with them too.

Jude Schappert

says:

Offering this type of site to help our children read and spell is fantastic, thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jude,
You are welcome. We are happy to be able to help take the struggle out of reading and spelling!

Maya

says:

This is actually my hobby. I love collecting this kind of words. I write them down like “word 1” + “word 2” = “word 3” and brief info where I saw/heard this word. I had no idea they are called portmanteaus!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What a fun hobby, Maya! We’re happy this blog post can help out with it.

stacy

says:

This is really useful for children who are uninterested in learning new words! Makes it more fun to learn new vocabularies! I thought of shorts + skirt = skort.

Becky Shay

says:

Excited to play that game with my boys!!

Alisha

says:

Looks like a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to playing this with my kiddos.

Melissa

says:

thank you so much

Mary

says:

This looks very fun!

carol

says:

so much fun! looking forward to playing this with my students!

Lina

says:

Looks like great fun! Can’t wait to try it out with my kids.

Carol Kumataka

says:

This is a fun game to play. I know my grandson will have fun with it. Also, will use it on his friends at school.
thank you.

Amber Arthur

says:

This sounds like fun

Amber Arthur

says:

I would love to win all about spelling level 1.

Crystal Kerian

says:

I could see some serious fun for the kids with this game. Love the idea. Of course, I can also see my daughter deciding that this should be used for all words and start making up one for everything!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Crystal,
It’s okay if one or two portmanteaus become a part of your family vocabulary. It’s something to look back and smile on years later. My family still says “nucky” (nasty-yuck) that my son created some 18 or so years ago!

Sherrie

says:

My daughter came up with her own portmanteaus when she was younger. She had a hard time saying “hand sanitizer”, so instead she would say “hanitizer”.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sherrie,
Awww, “hanitizer” sounds like such a cute word!

Leslye Morse

says:

My students will love this game!! Can’t wait to play. Thank you!!

Teresa

says:

When my son was about 5, he said he was “Starfished” He then explained that meant Starving + famished.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Teresa,
Oh, I love it! I get “starfished” sometimes too.

Angela

says:

This looks super fun. Both my girls love the games portion!

Lynita

says:

What a fun looking Bingo! This would be fun to play with my girls.

marie greenhalgh

says:

Fun!

Nancy Ball

says:

Looking forward to playing this bingo.

Kimberly J

says:

A word that comes to mind is “hangry”!! Haha! It’s a blend of hungry and angry and used to describe someone who’s is angry (cranky) because they’re hungry and wanting to eat! My kids get a kick out of using this word…and now I can do this little lesson on portmanteaus with them- how fun! We are big fans of AAS and AAR- it’s awesome.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kimberly,
Hangry is a great one! I hope your kids have fun with this game.

Amber

says:

So fun! Bingo is always fun! My kids are going to love this!

Erika Avedillo

says:

This is a new concept to me. Can’t wait to share it with my son.

Mary Lombard

says:

I love learning new and fun words! My son and I will have fun playing this game!

Rae C

says:

“Grandpa” + “Gary” = “Garmp”
He’s the only Garmp I’ve ever met… 😁

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rae,
How cute and personal is the name “Garmp”!

Christy

says:

I’ve used several of these words and I look forward to teaching the concept to my children. Thank you!

Catie Mikolaschek

says:

How fun!! Can’t wait to do this with mine.

Leslie

says:

Who knew these words actually had a name?! I’ll be playing bingo with my sons tomorrow!

Priscilla Ward

says:

I have never heard of the word Portmanteaus before! I love the emails I have been receiving for alphabet crafts and other activities.
I have been very eager to start AAS with my boys. I am a first time homeschooling mom this year and time and again, I hear so much positive feedback about this program and AAR as well.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Priscilla,
We’re happy to hear that you are enjoying our emails and that you are hearing positive feedback about our programs!

Casey

says:

This looks like a lot of fun to play!

Terry W.

says:

Fun. I never knew there was a name for that.

Arleen

says:

Never knew the term for them…
Thank you for the enlightenment.

Analise Ebaugh

says:

Love this idea!! I’ve been so surprised by how much my children love the Ziggy games, so I’m sure they’ll love “playing” more during “school”! Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Analise,
School that you can “play” is a great motivator for many children. I hope yours enjoy this game as much as they are enjoying Ziggy’s games.

susan

says:

I’ m looking forward to playing this game with my 3rd grader. He doesn’t get much time to just play with words, and this offers us both the opportunity!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Susan,
We’re glad to help you give your student opportunity to play with words! Have fun.

Randy

says:

One of my favorite perks of home education is that my own learning never ceases!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Randy,
Yes, I agree!

Kayla

says:

That was a fun post!

Erika

says:

Thank you for the blog – I appreciate the variety, the chapter book reviews, and the teaching helps. And the fun ones like this!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Erika,
You are welcome! Thank you for letting us know you appreciate our blog variety.

Allison turner

says:

What a fun post!

Crystal Strickland

says:

This is really cool

Lee Ka

says:

This is really fun! I am sure it will help to make my children more interest in learning English. Thanks for sharing this!

Emily Brian

says:

Awesome!

Lynn

says:

I learned so much reading through this. Thank you.

Brittany

says:

What a fun new word to learn!

Jess

says:

Hilarious! Can’t wait to use these resources!

Interesting. I didn’t know that combining words like that actually had a specific term, although not surprising.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Suanna,
I had heard them called portmanteaus before, but I didn’t know the word portmanteau was a portmanteau itself!

Jill

says:

My son and I are on Level5 and looking forward to.moving on to the last 2 levels.

Jen

says:

My kids just naturally love these kind of mashups. My favorite is frickles = fried pickles.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jen,
Now I kind of want to try a frickle!

Alyson M

says:

So many new things to learn along side my daughter!!

Laurie

says:

Thanks for the printables!

Amanda Wade

says:

Slowasaurus. That’s my daughters spirit dinosaur. She prefers Slowceratops.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Oh, that’s a wonderful one, Amanda!

Amanda

says:

What a fun and educational post. I love words. I never knew that about Alice in Wonderland!

Kristin Evans

says:

Didn’t know that term! Fun ideas!

Emily

says:

Very interesting! Never knew this had a term, lol!

Esther

says:

I love your products!

Brandi Vidrine

says:

I’ve learned to so much from this post! Thank you for sharing!

Debbie Jean McMullen

says:

Yes I love words like that and my first grader who is learning to read loves them too! I actually first read the word ‘Portmanteau’ in gone with the wind. I realized what the word meant right away since we speak French here in Quebec!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Debbie,
You have an advantage when it comes to English words of French origin!

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