Frankenwords aren’t just for Halloween. You may know them as blended words, or by their more formal linguistic moniker, portmanteau. We use them daily, without even thinking about it, and you may have even made up a few of your own. Frankenword itself is a frankenword!

That’s the beauty of portmanteaus. There aren’t really any rules when it comes to creating them. Some make sense at first glance, while others you might think, “How did this happen?” How are frankenwords created, and how do they take hold in common speech?

How to make a frankenword

Frankenwords arise out of necessity. You want a shorter way to say something, but there’s no word for it. So, what do you do? You mash a couple of existing words together and make up a new one! Frankenwords are the ultimate form of linguistic resourcefulness, even if your inventions don’t stick.

Making them is easy. All you have to do is hack off a couple syllables of two words — or more, if you’re feeling ambitious — and stitch them together like the limbs of Frankenstein’s monster. Usually this means taking the last syllables of one word and the first syllables of another and putting the parts together.

There are even portmanteau generators that allow you to plug in the words you want to combine, and the generator will do it for you. If you need to procrastinate on a paper or work project, this is a fun one.

Frankenwords in the wild

We said these words appear everywhere, and we meant it. Some of these words have broken from their status as just a slang frankenword, and ascended to a place in the dictionary. Check out these frankenwords and see how many you use:

  • Spam (spiced + ham)
  • Brunch (breakfast + lunch)
  • Cockapoo (Cocker spaniel + poodle)
  • Labradoodle (Labrador + poodle)
  • Newscast (news + broadcast)
  • Motorcycle (motorized + bicycle)
  • Frenemy (friend + enemy)
  • Bromance (brother + romance)
  • Mockumentary (mock + documentary)
  • Camcorder (camera + recorder)
  • Dramedy (drama + comedy)

There are plenty of words like newscast and motorcycle that have been used for so long now that they’re hardly counted as portmanteaus anymore.

Frankenwords are the epitome of linguistic improv. They’ve contributed to the English language in ways no one expected, to the point where they camouflage as their own words. How many frankenwords have you made up lately?