Purple Rose Puzzles webpages banner

Portmanteau Words

bottle of port wine   man in purple suit   big toe with googly eyes         two crossed swords   minus sign S

No. of Players: 2+
Type of Game: spoken
What you need: nothing


To guess the origins of portmanteau words, or to make new ones.

How to play

A portmanteau word is a word that blends the sounds of, and combines the meanings of, two other words. For instance, anklet is a portmanteau word since it blends the words ankle and bracelet. Players think of portmanteau words and then challenge each other to identify their origins by naming the two words which are blended to create it. Alternatively, players can entertain each other by creating new portmanteau words and then giving their definitions and origins.


Actual portmanteau words:

smog = smoke + fog
fanzine = fan + magazine
spork = spoon + fork
cineplex = cinema + complex
motel = motor + hotel
brunch = breakfast + lunch
camcorder = camera + recorder
infomercial = information + commercial

Fun portmanteau words:

cellfish = cell phone + selfish
    (inconsiderate mobile phone user)
sleeprived = sleep + deprived
    (dulled wakefulness due to insufficient sleep)
chillax = chill + relax
    (calm down)
fough = fake + cough
    (sound made by a healthy person when calling into work sick)
frenemy = friend + enemy
    (a supposed friend who acts more like a foe)
clady = cat + lady
    (older woman obsessively devoted to her many feline pets)
ginormous = gigantic + enormous
    (something really big)
frankenfood = Frankenstein + food
    (genetically modified food)

Did you know?

The word portmanteau is actually a portmanteau word. It is made by combining two French words: porter ("to carry") and manteau ("cloak").

Alice in Wonderland reading book to Cheshire Cat

Portmanteaus were first used by Lewis Carroll in his 1872 book Through the Looking-Glass. In it, Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice how slithy means "lithe and slimy" and mimsy is "flimsy and miserable."

"You see it's like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word."

However, the word itself was actually in use a full three centuries before this time. Back in the 1580s, people commonly used portmanteau to refer to a "flexible traveling case for clothes and other necessities" (deriving from the Middle French word portemanteau meaning "traveling bag," and originally in the 1540s to refer to "a court official who carried a prince's mantle or cloak").

gladstone portmanteau suitcase

Traditionally, portmanteau suitcases had a rigid frame with a leather exterior and opened into two equal parts. A keen eye can still spot them today in the lobbies of historic hotels. But their use by the general public has greatly diminished from their heyday, at the turn of the last century, when the Gladstone bag – a small, easily carried portmanteau – was all the rage.

In case you're wondering, the images under the title of this word game form a rebus puzzle:


More Word Games