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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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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.

Deann H

says:

How fun! thanks!

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!

Suanna Sears

says:

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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