Tag Archives: Alice

Portmanteau – is circularly self-defining. It too is a portmanteau.


A portmanteau word is a combination of two words that morph into one new word. Typically it combines both sounds and meanings. For example, ‘smog‘ is a portmanteau, it is a combination of smoke and fog.

Portmanteaus became very famous from the story of “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.” It was the first time that the word portmanteau was used in the new sense. In the book, Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice how words are melded in the poem “Jabberwocky.“…

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

…and later in the Introduction to his poem ‘The Hunting of the Snark‘ Lewis Carroll explains…

Humpty Dumpty’s theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all. For instance, take the two words “fuming” and “furious”. Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first … if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say “frumious”.

Interestingly, the word portmanteau itself is a portmanteau. It comes from the French porter + manteau which mean To Carry a Cloak. Before Through the Looking Glass, a portmanteau referred to a suitcase in English and in modern French, a porte-manteau is a clothes valet, a coat-tree, hat stand or similar article of furniture for hanging up jackets, hats, umbrellas and the like.

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