What is a Frisbee&Reg;?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

A Frisbee® is a plastic disc designed to fly in the air when it is thrown. The name "Frisbee®" is the registered trademark of a product manufactured by Wham-O, while the generic term used to refer to this item is flying disc. "Frisbee" is often used to refer to any flying disc toy, however, much like "Band-Aid®" is used for any type of adhesive bandages.

Boy playing with a ball
Boy playing with a ball

While flying disc toys were not commercially manufactured until 1948, the concept is much older. Throwing aerodynamic discs for fun has probably been around as long as lightweight lids, cake pans, and plates have. The clay pigeons used for target practice since the 19th century resemble the Frisbee® in design. Sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century, college kids at various New England institutions began throwing around the tins from a Connecticut pie company known as Frisbie, from which the Wham-O product takes its name.

The first commercial flying disc, developed by Walter Frederick Morrison and Warren Franscioni, was called the Pipco Flying-Saucer® and appeared on shelves in 1948. In 1955, Morrison debuted an improved design marketed as the Pluto Platter®. Wham-O bought his design, which remains in use, two years later. It was modified and renamed, and released as the Frisbee® in 1958.

The Frisbee® are often used for recreation, either informally or as a structured activity. Many people enjoy throwing a Frisbee® around between friends or to a pet dog in the park, while others engage in team sports centered around the flying disc. Some popular sports using the Frisbee® include Ultimate — shortened from Ultimate Frisbee, Disc Golf, Fricket, and Double Disc Court. There are also structured Frisbee® catching competitions for dogs that are based on the game of fetch.

Flying discs are manufactured in a variety of materials and sizes tailored to specific purposes. Those used for Disc Golf, for example, are smaller and denser than the typical Frisbee®, while Disc Dog uses durable flying discs that can withstand the ravages of canine teeth. Some Frisbees® are designed to appeal aesthetically to children, with bright colors, fun patterns, and even built-in lights for nighttime play.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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