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Onomatopoeia, Portmanteau, etc.

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Senior Member
Jul 24, 2003
Words that imitate a real sound like chirp and thud are called Onomatopoeia; taking parts of two or more words to form a new word like brunch (breakfast & lunch) and motel (motor & hotel) are called portmanteau. Is there a name for words borrowed from foreign languages like kowtow (from Chinese) and aqua (from Spanish).

You can apply your own imaginations and associations to memorize words. For example, I associate frolic (behave playfully) to leaping and hopping like a frog on the floor. Is there a name for this memorization by association?

You can also chop up a word for memorization. Since I already know nightmare, it is easy for me to remember the word mare too, by simply taking the word nightmare apart. Is there a name for this method too? Chopped-up words?

Thank you and have a great day.



Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
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American English
Home Country
United States
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United States
It seems that you pretty much answered your own questions. :wink:

The only word I know for words borrowed from foreign languages is borrowings.

Portmanteau words

A portmanteau word is a word formed by the blending of two or more other words. The word comes from Alice in Wonderland and appears as Alice asks Humpty Dumpty to explain slithy from the opening line of Jabberwocky.* He tells Alice, "Well 'slithy' means lithe and slimy. You see, there are two meanings packed into one word."

The above is from Dickson's Word Treasury by Paul Dickson. Following are some examples of portmanteau words (from the book):
bash = bat + mash
bit = binary + digit
blot = black + spot
brunch = breakfast + lunch
flare = flame + glare
motel = motor + hotel
napalm = naphthene + palmitate
pixel = picture + element
slosh = slop + slush
smog = smoke + fog
transistor = transmitter + resistor

*"Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe."


Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Nov 13, 2002
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British English
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Current Location
A new portmanteau word that I saw is particularly cute and only orthographic:

Pharms (GM Farms)

I like it. ;-)
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