15 Everyday Words We Didn’t Realize Were Portmanteaus

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Vote up the best word compounds

You know those words that are basically two words smushed together? Like how “smog” is a combination of “smoke” and “fog.” Or “brunch” is the baby of “breakfast" and “lunch.”

Well, there is a word for these compound words - a portmanteau (pronounced port-MAN-toe). Fittingly, “portmanteau” is a portmanteau, coming from the two root words of “porter” (to carry) and “manteau” (a cloak). So, the loose translation of “carrying a cloak” means to carry two ideas together. Or, more simply, think of a portmanteau as “two meanings packed up into one word.

There are many words in the English language that not many of us probably realize are portmanteaus - everything from our favorite electronic pets to the stuff that closes our toddlers' shoes. 

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  • 1
    41 VOTES

    Stash

    Original words: stow + cache 

    Definition: Most of use “stash” in our everyday language, like: “I'm going to stash away some money for a rainy day.” Or: “That boy has a massive stash of candy under his bed.”

    Stash means to hide something away, or a collection of items that are hidden away. 

    But “stash” originally came about in the late 1700s, as a combination of “stow” (to put away) and “cache” (a hiding place). 

  • 2
    29 VOTES

    Velcro

    Original words: velour + crochet

    Definition: Did you know Velcro is actually a brand name? Much like Kleenex has become synonmous with tissues, "Velcro" has become the word most of us use for the hook and loop products that connect together with that satisfying “zip” sound. (This genericization has become such an issue that Velcro released a whole marketing campaign in 2017 with the goal of stopping people from using their name.)

    But the name Velcro originally came about back in the 1950s when inventor George de Mestral needed a name for his fastening tape. So, he combined the French words “velour” (velvet) and “crochet” hook to coin his new textile. 

  • 3
    20 VOTES

    Tamagotchi

    Original words: 卵 tamago ("egg") and ウオッチ utochi ("watch")

    Definition: Did you just get a flashback to that moment of panic when you realized you hadn't fed your Tamagotchi? 

    For ‘90s kids, Tamagotchis were some of the biggest responsibilities our young selves had. We would feed and nurture these electronic, palm-sized pets, and in return we'd get to show off to our friends how long we'd been able to keep them alive. 

    The name Tamagotchi originally came from two words - tamago (“egg”), representing the shape of the device, and uotchi, the Japanese equivalent of the English word watch, as it was to be worn on the wrist in the original concept but was later changed to a keychain.

    Despite the skepticism of toy manufacturers, the device turned out to be a massive hit. Over 82 million were sold worldwide by 2017. Those heady days of the 1990s are long gone, but different versions of the concept lives on in the present. 

  • 4
    13 VOTES

    Tarmac

    Original words:  tar + macadam

    Definition: Many of us have less-than-great memories of being stuck on a tarmac - AKA the runway at an airport. But Tarmac is actually a trademarked, specific kind of binding used for surfacing roads, parking lots, and runways. It's created by spraying tar over crushed stone.

    Tarmac's word origin is pretty self-explanatory if you know the whole story. It's a combination of tar, one of the main ingredients used in the process, and macadam - a method of leveling roads and paving them with gravel developed by John L. McAdam in the late 1700s.

  • Pokémon
    Photo: Nintendo / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    5
    27 VOTES

    Original words: pocket + monster

    Definition: Is there a millennial out there who didn't experience playing with Pokémon at least in some capacity? 

    Pokémon are of course the lovable creatures that have led to countless video games, card games, and board games.

    But Pokémon is not a fun, made-up word. No, it's actually a shortening of the Japanese phrase “Poketto Monsutā” - which itself is a translation of the English words “pocket” and “monster”. 

    We'd not normally think of Pikachu as a monster per say, but hey you can't argue with the word's origin. 

  • Electrocute
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    6
    21 VOTES

    Electrocute

    Original words: electricity + execute 

    Definition: Many of us are so familiar with the term “electrocute” that we don't realize where the word comes from. Meaning to “kill by electricity” this term became closely linked to criminals who were executed by way of the electric chair.

    And there you can see the base words - “electricity” and “execute” (to kill). “Electrocute" was penned in the late 1880s in the United States, right around the time the first person was killed via electric chair in 1890