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English has many examples of portmanteau words (e.g. "motel" is a combination of "motor" and "hotel"). Does Latin have any such phenomena?

  • 2
    vesuvinum is attested as an early pun, vesuvian wine, but it's hardly a portmanteau – vectory Nov 15 at 21:17
  • @vectory: Hmm why not? – Cerberus Nov 17 at 23:18
  • Because vinum isn't shortened. If only one element need be shortened, this'd be an easy question (e.g., quadecem, aliquis). – C Monsour Nov 18 at 1:42
  • I think it is a portmanteau, vinum doesn't have to be shortened, especially when it's the last term. It's half a portmanteau, as it's formed as a portmanteau, but the resulting word "vesuvinum" is also a word, so it doesn't show a neologism. So it depends if we consider that portmanteau should create new words, usually yes. But this example is very close, and show it is possible. – Quidam Nov 18 at 2:34
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    @vectory The problem that I see with Vesuvinum is that Vesuvinus is also attested as an adjective, and it's common practice to use the neuter form of adjectives that denote geographical regions to refer to wines from that region. For example, Falernum = Falernum vinum, 'Falernian wine.' So you'd have to show that Vesuvinum is intended as a pun/portmanteau word and not as simple shorthand for Vesuvinum vinum. What's the source for your example? – cnread Nov 18 at 18:43
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+25

Here is one candidate for a Latin portmanteau: hodie.

The word means roughly the same as hoc die and is believed to come together from these parts somehow. We don't exactly know how; the exact origin is unclear. One way to interpret it is to see it as a portmanteau of hoc and die so that some of hoc is lost when smashed together with die. (The lost bit would the c and half the length of o.)

Whether this qualifies for an actual portmanteau is perhaps a matter of taste, but it is such a common word that comes so close that I wanted to bring it up.

  • 1
    The hypothetical alteration of the first element in hodie seems comparable to the shortening found in the first syllable of English words like vineyard, shepherd or breakfast, which I’ve never seen called portmanteaus. – Asteroides Nov 18 at 20:34
  • @Asteroides Agreed. I don't think there is a good hard definition of a portmanteau. Those English words do have some of the phenomenon but whether they qualify for the title is unclear to me. I know hodie is not a strong and clear portmanteau, but I couldn't think of anything better. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 18 at 20:39
  • Any particular reason you think hodie is a stronger candidate than quadecem or aliquis? – C Monsour Nov 21 at 1:17
  • @CMonsour Nope! I'd be happy to see other suggestions in other answers. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 21 at 6:02
  • There is a multitude of words that seem to have been shortened on their way from Proto-Italic to Latin or Vulgar Latin especially. I don't think the question asks for elipsis or phonetically conditioned contractions. – vectory Nov 22 at 6:55
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Non in Latinitate Antiqua invenitur, sed quidam @Atticist Gratiactio verbum abhinc minutos proposuit:

Anyone want to second “Gratiactio” as the Latin portmanteau for Thanksgiving?

https://twitter.com/Atticist/status/1199756413133819910

  • 2
    I'd put this in the same category as saxifragus, which was suggested above: it's a fairly garden-variety compound formed on well-established patterns for compounds in Latin. According to my dictionary, a portmanteau is a word 'blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others'; the blending is key, I think, and is what separates real portmanteaus like smog (smoke + fog) and brunch (breakfast + lunch) from things like hodie and gratiactio, where the original forms and meanings of the constituent words remain more or less distinct. Still, I quite gratiactio as a neologism. – cnread Nov 27 at 19:42
-1

This actually came up during an answer to a question I had asked, and the word from that answer was saxifragus, or "rock-breaking". I'm not sure how common it was practiced as compared to languages that do it more broadly (I'm thinking of English and German as examples), but it does seem to be attested to some extent.

  • 5
    I wouldn't class saxifragus a portmanteau word; it's just a multi-root compound, where the roots of the two elements are complete and distinctly visible. A portmanteau work like motel or brunch is different, because only the beginning of one of the elements and the end of the other are visible, leaving some of the 'root' material of each omitted. – cnread Nov 13 at 18:11
  • Good point; I was conflating a portmanteau with a compound word. – Adam Nov 13 at 20:27
  • I guess you don't count words like quadecem where only one element is shortened. – C Monsour Nov 13 at 22:12

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