50. Portmanteau

(letters – 11 | syllables – 3 )
(scrabble score – 15)

  1. |noun| a new word formed by joining two others and combining their meanings.
  2. |noun|a large travelling bag made of stiff leather

(Wolfram Alpha)

  1. |noun| A large travelling bag, typically made of stiff leather and opening into two equal parts.
  2. |noun| A word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others, for example: motel or brunch.
  3. |noun| [AS MODIFIER] Consisting of or combining two or more aspects or qualities.

(Oxford Dictionary)

  1. |noun| a large suitcase.
  2. |noun| a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms.


Origin and Etymology of ‘portmanteau’:

  • “1580s, ‘traveling case or bag for clothes and other necessaries,’ from Middle French portemanteau “traveling bag,” originally “court official who carried a prince’s mantle” (1540s), from porte, imperative of porter “to carry” (see porter (n.1)) + manteau “cloak” (see mantle (n.)).Portmanteau word is a “word blending the sound of two different words” (1882), coined by “Lewis Carroll” (Charles L. Dodgson, 1832-1898) for the sort of words he invented for “Jabberwocky,” on notion of “two meanings packed up into one word.” As a noun in this sense from 1872.


Bloggers Note:

The writer Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) has Humpty-Dumpty define the term as so:

“You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

I find Humpty’s a far more elegant description of the usage which Carroll himself coined, than those presented above.

Thus, a term which had hitherto been somewhat specialized to a, no doubt dreary, field of luggage science took upon an entirely different future than it might have otherwise. The magician strikes again, you see.

For my purpose, I encountered the term while engaging in research for an entirely separate website I maintain. ‘Portmanteau‘ I found, in use describing a fresh term known as ‘Lawfare‘ the conjunction of ‘law,’ and ‘warfare.’ Incidentally this succeeds as a truly Dodgson-esque portmanteau only because the ‘war’ part of warfare is removed, otherwise it would have been a conjunction. To understand that is to understand that although portmanteaus succeed in creating a new thing out of two separate things, certain parts of those separate things must be lost.

This brings to mind the adage of breaking eggs to make an omelet, an irony that I’m sure was not lost upon Dodgson and his fictitious Humpty-Dumpty.

[A Warning:

For those ambitious researchers who decide to look into the matter themselves, I would like to give you a fair warning beforehand. Each word I post, is accompanied with a ‘featured image.’ In most cases these images are my own creations, but occasionally I must peruse the Internet in search of the proper Image to augment the explanation in question.  

search for ‘Humpty Dumpty’ imagery, can be quite disturbing.  The metaphor works on many different levels and is imbued with deep-level meaning so as to touch facets of the consciousness you may or may not be aware of. The more profoundly that a story or image is seeded into the mind, the more disturbing I find the connatations of that image to be when represented online. Words beget Ideas in a magical sense and not necessarily in a positive way each time. That is my warning, take it as you will. ]


About Justin Arn

Part-time Bartender. Full Time Learner. Currently exploring the mystery and wonder of life while coding, reading, and hiking.
This entry was posted in Alchemy, One Word Each Day, portmanteau, Words and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 50. Portmanteau

  1. Superb post! I love that word, portmanteau and wasn’t aware of all the different meanings.

    I was also wondering about your images. Did you make the Humpty Dumpty title card?

    Liked by 1 person

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