Understand Your Buyer > Wordplay > Portmanteau


What is it?

portmanteau (pronounced port-MAN-toe) is a word made by blending at least two words. The new word combines both the sounds and meanings of the original words.


Why does it work?

It works because it combines two elements together to shortcut how something is understood (much like a schema). A word like “housebarrassment” combines the word “house” and “embarrassment” to communicate thew feeling of shame some people have when people come to visit.

The alternative is to describe the feeling, but this takes longer and is less compelling:

Exhibit A

  • That feeling when people come to visit and you’re embarrassed about how tidy your house is.
  • Housebarrassment.


How can you use it?

To create a portmanteau, usually the first part/syllable of one word is attached to the final part/syllable of another word. There are other ways to do it, but this is the easiest and most obvious.



  1. alphanumeric (alphabetic + numeric) – consisting of letters and numbers
  2. brunch (breakfast + lunch) – a meal that takes place between breakfast and lunch hours
  3. emoticon (emotion + icon) – facial expressions or emotions expressed through keyboard symbols



Bonus:  Where does the term come from>?

The word portmanteau itself is an appropriate embodiment of this word form, since portmanteau, which is French for porte (“to carry”) + manteau (“cloak”), describes a suitcase that opens in two halves. Portmanteaus “carry” both meanings of their word pairs.


See also:



12 Wordplay techniques to capture attention:

  1. Acrostic
  2. Alliteration
  3. A​mbigram
  4. Anaphora
  5. Assonance
  6. Calligram
  7. Consonance
  8. Neologism
  9. Rhyme
  10. Mesostic
  11. Epistrophe
  12. Homophone


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