What is a Portmanteau Word?

Have you stayed at a motel recently? Or when was the last time you dined at a Sunday brunch?

You may not have stopped to think about the origin of those words. But its simple — put “motor” and “hotel” together for “motel” to acknowledge the age of the automobile. Similarly, combining “breakfast” and “lunch” produces “brunch”. Simple!

This type of word actually has a name: portmanteau, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a word or part of a word made by combining the spellings and meanings of two or more other words or word parts” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portmanteau). They’re surprisingly common, like “smog” deriving from “smoke” and “fog”. But sometimes they’re not so obvious, like the derivation of Anaheim, California — from “heim”, the German word for home, and Ana from the Santa Ana river flowing through it.

Now where do you think “podcast” came from?

By the way, a portmanteau can also be a large suitcase. Go figure.

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