Portmanteaux in Engineering

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Portmanteaux in Engineering

Rocking those skorts (or is it a skort?)


Portmanteaux in Engineering


Portmanteaux (that's the plural of portmanteau, do you ken, laddie?) are literary devices that combine two words into one with a blended meaning, like motel (motor hotel), spork (spoon fork) and skorts (skirt shorts, sometimes simply "skort"). Portmanteau is similar, but different from an acronym, which uses just a letter or two of words in a string to produce a new word or name.

The origin of the word has something to do with a suitcase that had two compartments, according to Wikipedia. Check out Wikipedia's post on Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky and you'll learn portmanteau from the master.

Engineers and their friends in marketing tend to be portmanteau creators, without even knowing the term. We'll throw out a few here and keep adding to the list as we come across more. Be sure to reference this page when you write your term paper on the subject...

alnico (aluminum nickel cobalt) technically this might be considered an acronym...

amptenna (amplifier antenna, an abandoned trademark of California Amplifier, Inc)

audion (audio ion) the first three terminal vacuum tube invented by Lee DeForest

avionics (aviation electronics)

balun (balanced unbalanced)

blog (web log)

carrottenuator (carrot attenuator)

cermet (ceramic metallic) thick-film resistor technology

chemtrails (chemical trails) Part of the modernity of stupidity, which seems to be accelerating when you consider what went down in 2016.  Chemtrail people believe that the government is dumping chemicals on the population for nefarious purposes.  The same people that believe that it is impossible that mankind is the culprit in global warming. Thankfully, sylphs are known to eat chemtrails. See contrails, below.

chemtrails 800

Chemtrail people might be experts in science and government policy but they are not masters of the English language. They  are known to carry ladders with them so they can post signs high enough so passersby can't rip them down.

codec (coder-decoder)

compansion, compander (compression expansion)

conops (concept of operation)

conopulse (conical monopulse (radar), described in this 1978 MTT-S paper)

contrails (condensation trails) Don't be alarmed... chemtrails are just contrails.  Go back in your house, there's nothing to see here...

diabesity (diabetes, obesity) a new term for Type II diabetes

elevon (elevator aileron)

email (electronic mail)

filtercon (filtered connector)

flexguide (flexible waveguide)

Flybrid (flywheel hybrid, a cool new technology for storing an releasing kinetic energy, the name is trademarked by a British Company, Flybrid Systems. Unfortunately, they were acquired by Torotrak PLC, which no longer maintains a web site.

Fractenna (fractal antenna, thanks to Thomas! Fractal Antenna is an antenna company)

fraudit (fradulent audit, like what is happening to the Arizona 2020 presidential ballots)

FraudoCAD (free AutoCAD)

freeware (free software)

Galinstan (gallium, indium, tin) Galinstan is an alloy with a low melting point, and the name is a trademark.  It is used by some researchers to create low loss RF switches.

gigital (gigahertz digital)

glassivation (glass passivation)

Greengineering (green engineering, actually a trademark of a land development company that should be able to cash in on it)

HELIAX helical coax, a registered trademark of Andrews LLC

HiFi (high fidelity, remember that?)

intercom (internal communications)

klystron (Greek word "klyzo", which refers to waves breaking on a beach, combined with "electron")

ladar (laser radar, a portmanteau of two acronyms)

linac (linear accelerator)

LORAN (long range navigation, invented by Hall-of-Famer Alfred Lee Loomis)

Juneteenth (June 19th) Not an engineering term but important all the same.  Juneteenth is the Day in 1865 that slaves in Galveston, Texas found out that the Civil War was over and that they were free, following the January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.  

maglev (magnetic levitation) Invented by Professor Eric Laithwaite, no one could possibly explain the concept better than he did in his "Magnetic River" movie from 1975.

Magnetic River, 1975, by Professor Eric Laithwaite

Bonus video... watch Q use Laithwaite's magnetic river to decapitate a dummy with a tea tray!~


malware (malicious software)

mantenna (man antenna)

magnetron (magnet electron) thanks to Giorgio from Italy!

memristor (memory resistor)

modem (modulator demodulator) also thanks to Giorgio from Italy!

multicopter (multiple helicopter, a popular form of UAV or drone)

multifier (multipler amplifier) yeah, we made this one ourselves, but there is a strong precedent for it

multipactor (multiple impactor)

napalm (napthelene/palmitate)

nichrome (nickel chromium)

op-amp (operational amplifier)

pandeconomics (pandemic economics)

paramp (parametric amplifier)

permalloy (permeability alloy)

photonics (photo electronics)

pleather (plastic leather)

Pokemon (pocket monster) Come to think of it, many of Pokemon names are portmanteaux...

polarotor (polarization rotator)

positraction (positive traction) A shorter term for limited-slip differential, and the acronym "LSD" was already taken during the 1960's muscle-car era. Along with pleather, this portmanteau has made it into a song!

 My four-speed, dual-quad positraction 409!

radome (radar dome)

rebar (reinforcing bar)

rectenna (rectifier antenna)

rectax (rectangular coax)

refudiate (something Sarah Palin once made up by accident out of Alaskan ignorance)

robocop (robot cop)

rojo (rotary joint)

rotodome (rotary radome)

Sanka (sans caffeine) Almost an anachronism, up until the 1980s if you wanted decaf coffee you simply asked for Sanka.  Sanka was a brand name that once ranked up with Xerox, Legos and FedEx. One lingering effect of the near-extinct Sanka brand is that decaf coffee carafes are almost always colored orange, the color of the Sanka logo. 

satcom (satellite communications, often SATCOM or SatComm (satellite communications)

squarax (square coax)

stalo (stable local oscillator)

sysop (system operator)

smog (smoke fog) (thanks to Drew!)

stiction (static friction, a problem associated with MEMS)

switchplexer® (switch multiplexer, trademark of Murata)

tabletizer (tablet digitizer, mostly obsoleted by touch screens)

tarmac (tar macadam) Scottish Engineer John McAdam developed the science of how to surface roads back in the 18th century known, in a process that came to be known as "macadam". Edgar Hooley patented a tar-gravel mix in 1902 in England and launched a business. Hooley's floundering Tarmac company was bought by Alfred Hickman in 1905 and who used steel mill tailings in the tarmac process, a win-win situation. Today, "tarmac" is used interchangeably with the word "asphalt".

Telstar (television star, the first commercial satcom satellite launched in 1962)

thermistor (thermal resistor)

transceiver (transmitter receiver) (thanks to Drew!)

transistor (transfer resistor, coined by John Robinson Pierce)

transponder (transmitter responder)

triax (triple coax)

turbojet (turbine jet)

turbofan (turbine ducted fan)

twinax (twin coax)

twingle (twin single) What engine has two pistons sharing a single combustion chamber, and one connecting rod with two wrist pins?  Also known as a split single, you could buy a Puch Twingle 250 from 1953 to 1969, right from the Sears catalog (branded as "Allstate").  If you dive into how it operates you will find that it is slightly more efficient than a normal two-stroke engine. 

Tearing down a twingle

varactor (voltage variable capacitor)

varistor (voltage variable resistor) (thanks to Drew!)

viacitor (via capacitor).  See our slang dictionary for more information.... thanks to Pete!

vocoder (voice encoder, examples include military and musical)

WiBro (wireless broadband, a standard of Korea)

WiMax (wireless maximum)

WiFi (wireless fidelity)

WiGig (Wireless Gigabit)

wobulator (wobble/oscillator) a historic term for a type of sweep oscillator

Keep them coming, girls and boys!


Author : Unknown Editor