German Kofferwörter (Portmanteau Words) Posted by Constanze on May 9, 2018 in Language
Today the topic is all about German Kofferwörter. These are words that mix two or more existing words together to create a new word with a blended meaning. These are what the English call portmanteau words. Examples in English include Brexit (Britain + Exit, to describe Britain exiting the EU), smog (smoke + fog), and many, many more (motel, brunch, etc.) In this post I’d like to show you some German portmanteau words!
Firstly, why the name? Das Kofferwort is made up the words der Koffer (suitcase) and das Wort (word). It is a translation of the French mot-valise, which is a back-translation of the English suitcase word (from French portmanteau).
Alternative names for a Kofferwort in German include das Kunstwort (‘art word’, made-up word) and das Schachtelwort (‘box word’).
Seven examples of German Kofferwörter:
Teuro – A combination of teuer (expensive) & Euro (German currency), first used in 1997 as a reference to the rise in price with the introduction of the Euro to Germany.
Mainhattan – A combination of the German river Main & Manhattan in New York, used to describe the central business district in Frankfurt, which lies on the River Main. Because there are so many banks there, the district is also sometimes referred to as Bankfurt – a combination of Bank and Frankfurt.
Kreuzkölln – The district of Berlin between Kreuzburg and Neukölln.
Jein – A combination of the words Ja and Nein, used when the answer to a question appears a little more complicated than a simple yes or no.
Denglisch – Acombination of the words Deutsch and Englisch, to describe the way German uses English words and vice-versa.
Verschlimmbesserung – A combination of the words Verschlimmerung (to make something worse) and Verbesserung (to make something better). This describes an attempt to make something better that ends up making it worse, instead. Read more on this word here.
Nichtsdestotrotz – This combines the words nichtsdestoweniger (Nevertheless) and trotzdem (Despite that).
Note: A Kofferwort is not the same as a compound noun!
German is famous for its compound nouns, and these can sometimes get mixed up with Kofferwörter. A compound noun is when two or more words are put together to create a new one, whereas a Kofferwort is when two or more words are ‘mixed’ to create a new one. Below are some examples to show you the difference:
Compound noun: das Abendessen (Abend + Essen = ‘evening meal’ = dinner. Full words are used.)
Kofferwort: Denglisch (D from Deutsch + Englisch = mix of German and English)
(Even the word Kofferwort is a compound noun!)
Can you think of any more Kofferwörter? If so, let me know and I’ll add them to the post!