A Brief History of the Word “Frisbee”

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Have you ever read that word, “Frisbee,” and thought, “Where did that word come from?” It is a weird looking and weirder sounding word that doesn’t seem to have any traditional Latin or Germanic roots that have anything to do with a round flying disc.

The beginnings of the Frisbee are believed to be rooted in the Frisbie Pie Company. This was a pie shop founded in 1871 by a man named William Frisbie in Bridgeport, Connecticut. As the story goes, local students at Yale learned that the pie tins when turned upside down could be used to fly or “skim” the air at a variety of trajectories. Throwing these Frisbie pie tins became a popular children’s game over the years

Then in 1957, the California based company Wham-O changed the spelling and trademarked the word, Frisbee. So technically, Frisbee is to flying discs as Kleenex is to tissues. A real Frisbee is technically a brand name of a flying disc. So if you look at your common household “frisbees” you probably aren’t going to see the word Frisbee on it anywhere because of the trademark. You also aren’t going to see it on any of the packages at the local sporting goods store unless it happens to be a real Frisbee made by Wham-O.

But as you can see elsewhere on this site, there is still a common colloquial differentiation between a “frisbee” and a disc. Many of those who are in the disc golf community will differentiate them by simply calling disc golf discs, “discs,” and all other discs are called, “frisbees.” This isn’t technically accurate as those who are active in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) will be the first to tell you.

Their sport is called Ultimate, but many of us grew up knowing this game/sport as frisbee football or ultimate frisbee. However, a true Frisbee is not what you use to play ultimate. You use ultimate discs like the Discraft Ultra Star or the Innova Pulsar.

But the word “Frisbee” isn’t going anywhere. It is a part of our colloquial in the disc sport culture. So while Ultimate players and disc golfers may correct you if you call their sport ultimate frisbee or frisbee golf, they will also be the first ones to jokingly say, “Let’s go throw some Frisbees!”

So as disc sports work their way into the mainstream, the word frisbee may become less common, but for now, it isn’t going anywhere.

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