Blend word

In linguistics, a blend word or a blend is a word formed from parts of two or more other words. These parts are sometimes, but not always, morphemes.


Blends abridge then combine lexemes to form a new word. Defining a true blend is complicated by the difficulty of determining which parts of the new word are "recoverable" (have roots which can be distinguished).[1]

Blends can be divided into three groups:[1]

  1. Phonemic overlap: a syllable or part of a syllable is shared between two words
  2. Clipping: two words are shortened then compounded
  3. Phonemic overlap and clipping: two words are shortened to a shared syllable and then compounded


Most blends are formed by one of the following methods:

  1. The end of one word is appended to the beginning of the other (see portmanteau). For example, brunch is a blend of breakfast and lunch.
    • simultaneous (5) + broadcast (2) → simulcast (3, exception)
    • smoke (1) + fog (1) → smog (1)
    • spoon (1) + fork (1) → spork (1)
  2. The beginnings of two words are combined. For example, cyborg is a blend of cybernetic and organism.
  3. Two words are blended around a common sequence of sounds, also known as blends with overlapping. In this type of blend, there is phonological overlap, resulting in less shortening in between the two words that are being blended. As a result, the end of one word and the beginning of the second word will overlap and therefore facilitate the blend. For example, the word californication is a blend of California and fornication, and the word motel is a blend of motor and hotel. In both examples, the last part of the first word is the first part of the second word, and at least one phoneme overlaps between the two. Other examples include: filmania as a blend of film and mania, and slanguage coming from slang and language.
  4. Two words are blended with an omission from either of the words or both of the words. Unlike overlapping, this blend formation involves one word maintaining its entire form in the blend while only the second word is clipped. For example, foodoholic is a blend of food and alcoholic, in which the word food is retained entirely in the blended word, and only alcoholic is clipped for the blend. Other examples are: cussnation blending cuss and damnation, fanzine which is the blend of fan and magazine. However, it is not always the first word that retains its word as its entire form because the first word being clipped with the second word being retained entirely is also attested for. For example, Eurasia is a blend from Europe and Asia in which the first word undergoes omission while the second word is clipped. That goes to show that order does not matter in these blend formations in terms of where the clipping takes place. Another example is Hashbury as a blend of Haight and Ashbury.[2]
  5. Multiple sounds from two component words are blended, while mostly preserving the sounds' order. Poet Lewis Carroll was well known for these kinds of blends. An example of this is the word slithy, a blend of lithe and slimy.

A blended word may undergo further modification in form or meaning over time, and the meanings of its parts can become obsolete. Malinger may have developed from a blend in old French of malade (ill), maigre (meager) and haingre (haggard).[3] When two words are combined in their entirety, the result is considered a compound word rather than a blend. For example, bagpipe is a compound, not a blend, of bag and pipe.

Blending of two roots

Blending can also apply to roots rather than words, for instance in Israeli Hebrew:

  • "Israeli דחפור dakhpór 'bulldozer' hybridizes (Mishnaic Hebrew>>)Israeli דחפ √dħp 'push' and (Biblical Hebrew>>)Israeli חפר √ħpr 'dig'[...]
  • Israeli שלטוט shiltút 'zapping, surfing the channels, flipping through the channels' derives from
    • (i) (Hebrew>)Israeli שלט shalát 'remote control', an ellipsis – like English remote (but using the noun instead) – of the (widely known) compound שלט רחוק shalát rakhók – cf. the Academy of the Hebrew Language's שלט רחק shalát rákhak; and
    • (ii) (Hebrew>)Israeli שטוט shitút 'wandering, vagrancy'. Israeli שלטוט shiltút was introduced by the Academy of the Hebrew Language in [...] 1996. Synchronically, it might appear to result from reduplication of the final consonant of shalát 'remote control'.
  • Another example of blending which has also been explained as mere reduplication is Israeli גחלילית gakhlilít 'fire-fly, glow-fly, Lampyris'. This coinage by Hayyim Nahman Bialik blends (Hebrew>)Israeli גחלת gakhélet 'burning coal' with (Hebrew>)Israeli לילה láyla 'night'. Compare this with the unblended חכלילית khakhlilít '(black) redstart, Phœnicurus' (<<Biblical Hebrew חכליל 'dull red, reddish'). Synchronically speaking though, most native Israeli-speakers feel that gakhlilít includes a reduplication of the third radical of גחל √għl. This is incidentally how Ernest Klein[4] explains gakhlilít. Since he is attempting to provide etymology, his description might be misleading if one agrees that Hayyim Nahman Bialik had blending in mind."[5]

"There are two possible etymological analyses for Israeli Hebrew כספר kaspár 'bank clerk, teller'. The first is that it consists of (Hebrew>)Israeli כסף késef 'money' and the (International/Hebrew>)Israeli agentive suffix ר- -ár. The second is that it is a quasi-portmanteau word which blends כסף késef 'money' and (Hebrew>)Israeli ספר √spr 'count'. Israeli Hebrew כספר kaspár started as a brand name but soon entered the common language. Even if the second analysis is the correct one, the final syllable ר- -ár apparently facilitated nativization since it was regarded as the Hebrew suffix ר- -år (probably of Persian pedigree), which usually refers to craftsmen and professionals, for instance as in Mendele Mocher Sforim's coinage סמרטוטר smartutár 'rag-dealer'."[6]

Lexical selection

Blending may occur with an error in lexical selection, the process by which a speaker uses his semantic knowledge to choose words. Lewis Carroll's explanation, which gave rise to the use of 'portmanteau' for such combinations, was:

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 ... you will say "frumious."[7]

The errors are based on similarity of meanings, rather than phonological similarities, and the morphemes or phonemes stay in the same position within the syllable.[8]


Some languages, like Japanese, encourage the shortening and merging of borrowed foreign words (as in gairaigo), because they are long or difficult to pronounce in the target language. For example, karaoke, a combination of the Japanese word kara (meaning empty) and the clipped form oke of the English loanword "orchestra" (J. ōkesutora オーケストラ), is a Japanese blend that has entered the English language. The Vietnamese language also encourages blend words formed from Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary. For example, the term Việt Cộng is derived from the first syllables of "Việt Nam" (Vietnam) and "Cộng sản" (communist).

Many corporate brand names, trademarks, and initiatives, as well as names of corporations and organizations themselves, are blends. For example, Wiktionary, one of Wikipedia's sister projects, is a blend of wiki and dictionary.

See also


  1. Gries, Stefan Th. (2004). "Shouldn't it be breakfunch? A quantitative analysis of blend structure in English" (PDF). Linguistics. 42 (3): 639–667. doi:10.1515/ling.2004.021. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-20. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  2. "Blends, a Structural and Systemic View on JSTOR". JSTOR 454719. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. Harper, Douglas. "Malinger".
  4. Klein, Ernest (1987). A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language. Jerusalem: Carta. See p. 97.
  5. Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003). Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 66. ISBN 978-1403917232.
  6. Zuckermann 2003, p. 67.
  7. Carroll, Lewis (2009). Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-955829-2.
  8. Fromkin, Victoria; Rodman, R.; Hyams, N. (2007). An Introduction to Language (Eighth ed.). Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 1-4130-1773-8.
  • Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. (2011). An Introduction to Language (9th ed.). Boston, USA: Cengage Learning Wadsworth. ISBN 1-4282-6392-6 pp. 43–70, p. 503.
  • Renner, Vincent, François Maniez & Pierre Arnaud (eds), 2012. Cross-disciplinary perspectives on lexical blending. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
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