Portmanteau Words Games for Kids

Edutainment (Education + Entertainment) for Kids

LA covered in smog
Justin Lambert/Getty Images

Goal of Activity: Your child will learn about, recognize and create portmanteau words by playing portmanteau word games.

Skills Targeted: vocabulary building, word recognition

These Portmanteau word games will not only have you and your child giggling, but also provide your child with the opportunity to learn what a portmanteau word is and how to make and recognize one.

Note: These portmanteau word games for kids may require a little quick research on the part of you or your child, because you’ll need to know more than a few valid portmanteau words to help.

What is a Portmanteau Word?

Though the word "portmanteau" itself may sound fancy, it’s not that complicated a concept. Simply put, it’s a single word created by combining some of the sound elements of two other words. The word also combines the semantic meanings of the two words, so that it has its own singular meaning.

A very common example of this is the word smog, which is a combination of the words "smoke" and "fog." Not only does "smog" combine the sm- of smoke with the -og of fog, but the meanings are also combined. The basic definition of smog is a smoky haze made up of fog and air pollutants.

In a society in which your child is constantly exposed to amalgamated names like "Brangelina"(the combined name by which Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are known) and "Tomkat," (the name by which the now defunct celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes was known), it’s no wonder it’s hard to tell whether a word is real of not.

1. Play: "Can You Name the Portmanteau?"

To begin this game, Player One gives another player the two words that make up a real portmanteau word. (This is where your research comes in handy.) The other player has two minutes to guess what the created portmanteau is and provide its definition. If he guesses correctly, he gets a point.

If he’s stumped, Player One can provide the definitions of the two words that are being combined. The first player to reach 5 points is the winner.

2. Play: Can You Name the Words Used to Make the Portmanteau?

This version of the game is played almost exactly opposite from the first game. In this game, the first player provides a true portmanteau word and its definition. Now the other player has two minutes to guess which the original words and provide the definition of each of them. A player can earn up to four points per turn--one for each correct word and one for each correct definition. The first player to reach 10 points wins.

Note: This game is a little tougher because it’s hard to come up with definition for words that are an amalgamated version of two names. You may want to set a rule that states it’s okay to use "He’s a movie star," or "That girl from that band," as acceptable definitions.

2. Play: What Word Have I Created?

This variation of portmanteau word game is hilarious and gives your child a chance to use his imagination a little more than in the other variations. That’s because now it’s his turn to come up with new and mangled versions of words.

In this game, each player creates his own, not dictionary-ready, never-heard-before portmanteau word.

The first player presents his word by saying it out loud and, if necessary, writing it down for the other players to hear and see. The other players have to guess what the word means and what words were used to create it.

If the other players are stymied, they have the right to challenge the player to used the word in a sentence in order to provide a sense of context. Any player who can defend his choice of a word as valid earns a point, as does any player who correctly guesses another player’s word’s definition and origins. Any player who cannot use his word in a sentence or explain what words were used to create it forfeits his point and the game moves on to the next player.

20 Common Portmanteau Words

Component Word 1Component Word 2Portmanteau Word
Labradorpoodlelabradoodle
alphabetnumericalphanumeric
smokefogsmog
liontigerliger
emotioniconemoticon
videoblogvlog
fanmagazinefanzine
malicioussoftwaremalware
skypeer-to-peerSkype
jeansleggingsjeggings
spoonforkspork
webetiquettenetiquette
educationentertainmentedutainment
friendenemyfrenemy
informationcommercialinfomercial
Worldwide Webseminarwebinar
netetiquettenetiquette
beefbuffalobeefalo
wirelessfidelityWiFi
zebradonkeyzedonk