Is ‘irregardless’ a word?

Although irregardless has been in use since the early 20C, it remains non-standard and widely censured. It is undeniably a word, but using it in formal contexts (and many informal ones) is likely to invoke criticism and even scorn. The word seems to have emerged as a combination — some would say mutant hybrid — of regardless and irrespective.

Lewis Carroll used the term portmanteau to describe a neologism with “two meanings packed up into one word”; his nonsense verse Jabberwocky (pictured) is full of them. Portmanteau is itself a portmanteau word formed from the French words porter (“to carry”) and manteau (“cloak”). Linguists sometimes call them blends. Some disappear without trace, some retain limited use, and some become standard. Success doesn’t depend on euphony, as the popularity of stagflation demonstrates.

Here’s a list of portmanteau words, including some standard terms and some neologisms:

jabberwockybanoffee (banana + toffee)

biopic (biographical + picture)
Bollywood (Bombay + Hollywood)
breathalyser (breath + analyser)
brunch (breakfast + lunch)
camcorder (camera + recorder)
chortle (chuckle + snort)
cremains (cremated + remains)
cyborg (cybernetic + organism)
docudrama (documentary + drama)
electrocute (electricity + execute)
Franglais (Français + Anglais)
malware (malicious + software)
mockumentary (mock + documentary)
multiplex (multiple + complex)
Oxbridge (Oxford + Cambridge)
paratroops (parachute + troops)
podcast (iPod + broadcast)
smog (smoke + fog)
stagflation (stagnation + inflation)
telethon (telephone + marathon)
transistor (transfer + resistor)
travelogue (travel + monologue)
Wikipedia (wiki + encyclopedia)

[image source]
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6 Responses to Is ‘irregardless’ a word?

  1. [...] One of the least elegant portmanteau words I’ve ever [...]

  2. [...] user, but these criticisms warrant reasoned arguments to back them up, not dictatorial denial. I don’t care for irregardless, but I’ll defend its right to be [...]

  3. mike says:

    Hm. I’m becoming less and less of a grammar stickler over time, but if that’s the origin of “irregardless,” then the word seems all the more redundant. That doesn’t mean unusable, just perplexing: aren’t regardless and irrespective synonyms?

  4. Stan says:

    Mike: Redundancy has a bad reputation, but there’s nothing inherently or automatically wrong with it. Regardless and irregardless are synonyms; a similar pair is flammable and inflammable. But where the latter seem to cause significant confusion (hence the introduction of non-flammable), I don’t think I’ve ever seen a genuine mix-up ensue from the use of irregardless. Some users find it more emphatic than its forerunner, and this difference might find increasing favour.

  5. giantELF says:

    I firmly believe irregardless should be a word. Check out my thoughts on the very same subject: http://giantelf.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/irregardless-should-be-a-word-2/

  6. Stan says:

    giantELF: There’s no “should” about it. “Irregardless” is a word.

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