50 Words You Might Not Know Are Trademarked

Many of the items we use every day, like zippers and escalators, were once brand names. Here are some trademarked names that are often used as generic terms today.

1. Jet Ski

You might think you’re riding around on a Jet Ski, but if it’s not made by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, it’s just a personal watercraft.

2. Bubble Wrap

Sheet of Bubble Wrap
iStock

Bubble Wrap is probably the greatest contribution made to our society by Sealed Air Corporation, which they rightly trademarked.

3. Onesies

The term Onesies, referring to infant bodysuits, is owned by Gerber Childrenswear. According to their website, the trademark is aggressively enforced. (Twosies and Funzies also belong to Gerber.) If you're selling your own, you're gonna want to call them bodysuits.

4. Crockpot

Stew in a slow cooker
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The Crockpot, a brand name for the slow cooker, was originally developed as a beanery appliance.

5. Jacuzzi

Jacuzzi is not only a brand of hot tubs and bathtubs; they also make mattresses and toilets, which means you can sleep on a Jacuzzi that's oddly not a water bed.

6. Fluffernutter

Close-up photo of a Fluffernutter sandwich
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Fluffernutter is a registered trademark of the makers of Marshmallow Fluff, Durkee-Mower, Inc.

7, 8, and 9. Frisbee, Hula Hoop, and Slip 'n Sliide

Frisbee is currently owned by WHAM-O, but there have been ongoing legal battles to make this word and several others generic. In 2010, Manley Toys Ltd. challenged WHAM-O, arguing that the terms Frisbee, Hula Hoop and Slip ’N Slide have already become generic in the public lexicon. As recently as 2018, WHAM-O was regularly keeping an eye on counterfeiters who violated their trademark.

10. Chapstick

A woman applies lip balm
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Chapstick is a brand name of lip balm produced by Pfizer. In the event that you find yourself enjoying this product too much, websites dedicated to helping Chapstick addicts are available.

11. Kleenex

The perfect time to remind a friend or family member that Kleenex is a brand name for a tissue is right when they are desperately begging you to hand them one.

12. Ping-Pong

Close up of table tennis paddles and ball on a table near the net
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Ping-Pong was trademarked in 1901 as a brand of table tennis products named for the sound the ball makes when it hits the table.

13. Powerpoint

Unless you're using the Microsoft program, you're using a presentation graphics program or a pitch deck program.

14. Q-Tips

When Q-tips were originally released, they were called Baby Gays. The name was changed to Q-tips—the “Q” standing for quality—in 1926. Although they have changed hands several times since then, Unilever owns the brand today.

15. Rollerblade

Two sets people's legs, wearing knee pads and roller blades
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Two hockey-player brothers designed Rollerblade inline skates from a pair of old roller skates in 1979. They were the only brand of inline skates until the mid-1980s, when several other companies emerged.

16. Scotch Tape

According to legend, Scotch tape earned its name when a frustrated customer told a 3M scientist to “take it back to your Scotch bosses and tell them to put more adhesive on it.”

17. Sharpie Marker

The permanent marker was invented in 1956, but the Sharpie wasn’t introduced until 1964. Today, the products are almost synonymous with one another.

18. JELL-O

A cup of JELL-O with whipped cream
Robbie Gorr/iStock via Getty Images

In 1899, Pearle Wait sold his recipe for Jell-O to Orator Woodward for $450. In 1902, sales for the product were around $250,000. Today, the gelatin dessert is owned by Kraft.

19. Tupperware

Tupperware™ is a brand that got its name from its creator, Earle Silas Tupper.

20. Velcro

Blue velcro strip
svetik15/iStock via Getty Images

George de Mastral invented Velcro when he discovered that burrs stuck to matted dog fur. Today, it is the world’s most prominent brand of hook and loop fasteners.

21. Weed Eater

Weed Eater is owned by Husqvarna Outdoor Products, so you're probably using a string trimmer (or a whipper-snipper if you're feeling frisky).

22. Wite-out

Don’t ask BIC what’s in their line of correction fluid. The exact ingredients of Wite-out are confidential.

23. Band-Aids

An adhesive bandage
wabeno/iStock via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson manufactured gauze and adhesive tape separately until Earle Dickinson had the idea to combine them to create Band-Aids for his accident-prone wife.

24. Novocain

Novocain is actually the brand name of Procaine Hydrochloride owned by Hospira Inc.

25. TASER

TASER is a trademark of TASER International, and shouldn’t technically be used as a verb. To be fair, “Don’t hit me with that electroshock weapon, bro!” is probably hard to shout under duress.

Bonus fact: TASER is an acronym. It stands for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle."

26. Zamboni

An ice hockey rink
LeArchitecto/iStock via Getty Images

The Zamboni is an ice resurfacer named after its inventor, Frank Zamboni.

27. Dumpster

The word has become largely generalized and the trademark is not widely enforced. The Dumpster got its name from the Dempster Brothers Inc., who combined their name with the word “dump” to create the Dempster Dumpster.

28. Popsicle

Like many great things in life, the Popsicle was invented by accident. As the story goes, one winter night in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a mixture of soda and water with a stick in it on his porch. Almost 20 years later, Frank began selling his creation at a lemonade stand he was running and the treat has been popular ever since.

Today, Unilever recommends that you call generic frozen pops on a stick pops, ice pops, or freezer pops. Although, depending on where you’re from, offering someone a pop could get very confusing.

29. Post-Its

Everyone knows Post-its, a trademark of 3M (no, they were not the invention of Romy and Michele). In fact, a very different duo is responsible: Dr. Spencer Silver invented the adhesive in 1968 and scientist Art Fry thought up a practical use for it in 1974. In 1980, Post-its were available for sale.

30. Ouija Board

A close-up image of a Ouija Board game
homeworks255/iStock via Getty Images

The Ouija board was first introduced by Elijah Bond in 1890 as a practical way to communicate with spirits, making dealing with a pesky ghost much more convenient. Today, it is a trademark of Hasbro Inc.

31. Plexiglas

Plexiglas got its start in World War II aircraft canopies, has since become the better-known name for acrylic glass.

32. Styrofoam

A pile of foam cups
PamWalker68 iStock via Getty Images

No matter how many picnics you’ve been to or how much time you spend at the water cooler, you’ve never had a drink out of a Styrofoam cup. Expanded Polystyrene is the generic name for the material that we typically think of as Styrofoam. The brand is a trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, which produces the material in sheaths for construction projects and is never made in the shape of a plate, cup, or cooler.

33. Thermos

Although the Thermos was invented in 1892, it wasn’t paired with a lunch box until 1953. The set, which originally featured a picture of Roy Rogers, sold more than 2 million units in the first year.

34. Vaseline

Robert Chesebrough invented Vaseline, now a registered trademark of Unilever, when he observed oil workers smearing residue from drills on their skin to heal wounds. He was just 22 at the time. Twenty years later, in 1880, Vaseline was selling throughout the United States at the rate of one jar per minute.

35. Adrenalin

A girl in a helmet driving a go-kart
JackF iStock via Getty Images

This tale of two Adrenalin(e)s will really get your blood pumping: According to Merriam-Webster, in the 1800s, there were several scientists working with a hormone made in the adrenal glands, what we now call adrenaline. Pharmacologist Henry Dale wanted to call it adrenaline, but an American company that had already trademarked Adrenalin protested due to the similarity. Dale prevailed, and today we can just adrenaline without worry. Adrenalin, minus the “e,” is still protected for pharmacology use.

35. X-acto

X-ACTO began in 1917 as a medical company that created syringes. Eventually, they began creating surgical scalpels that evolved into the hobby knives that we associate with X-ACTO. X-ACTO is a brand and a division of Elmer’s Products.

37. Sheetrock

If you want to use the word drywall, go for it. But Sheetrock is a drywall brand name owned by the United States Gypsum Company.

38. Memory Stick

A memory stick
Veronika Zimina/Stock vai Getty IImages

The commonly used word to describe a type of flash drive used to store large amounts of data is protected by Sony, which launched the technology in 1998.

39. Lava Lamp

The lamp with the amorphous goo (mostly paraffin wax) inside was originally called the “Astro” lamp, but in 1965, he sold the U.S. manufacturing rights to a company called Lava Lite. The Lava brand is still trademarked today.

40. Realtor

A man holding a set of keys and papers
JackF iStock via Getty Images

The word Realtor is trademarked by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). If the person selling your home isn’t licensed by NAR, he or she is a real estate agent, not a realtor.

41. Auto-Tune

Altering voices in post-production is almost a given these days, but not all of it is considered true Auto-Tune. A trademark of Antares Audio Technologies, Auto-Tune uses a proprietary method of pitch correction to improve or change vocal performances.

42. Astro Turf

“AstroTurf” is commonly used to refer to any type of artificial grass, but the AstroTurf brand would prefer that you didn’t, especially since they invented synthetic turf.

43. Seeing Eye Dog

A yellow Labrador Retriever assistance dog
bobbymn iStock via Getty Images

The Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog school in the world, and only dogs who have gone through the training program in Morristown, New Jersey, can truly be called Seeing Eye dogs. Other dogs trained to help visually impaired people should be referred to as guide dogs.

44. Comic-Con

In 2017, Comic-Con International, which holds the annual San Diego fan convention, won a nasty legal battle against the Salt Lake Comic Con (now the FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention) over the rights to the phrase Comic-Con.

45. Mace

If the self-defense weapon you’re carrying isn’t made by Mace Security International, you’re not actually using Mace—you’re using plain old pepper spray.

46. Formica

The Formica Corporation has been fighting hard to keep their trademark since the 1970s—and so far, they’re winning. Invented at Westinghouse in 1912, the product was originally a substitute for the mineral mica, which was used in insulation—hence, “for mica.”

47. Hacky Sack

A pile of colorful hackey sacks
JRLPhotographer iStock via Getty Images

The patent and trademark for the term “Hacky Sack” goes back to 1979. Five years later, the brand was acquired by Wham-O, which still holds the rights today. The preferred non-branded term? Footbag.

48. Muzak

The Muzak Company was founded by U.S. Army Major General George Squier and had more offerings than just soothing instrumentals. But as that part of the catalog became popular, people began referring to the songs themselves as Muzak.

49. Freon

While we may use Freon to refer to the refrigerant that goes in some air conditioning units and cars, that particular word is a registered trademark belonging to DuPont. The generic term is a bit of a mouthful: fluorinated hydrocarbon refrigerant.

50. Fiberglass

Owens-Corning has not only trademarked the words Fiberglass and Fiberglas, but also the distinct color (yes, you can trademark colors!) of the product: PINK.

Read Guy Beringer’s 1895 Essay That Coined the Term Brunch

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LUNAMARINA/iStock via Getty Images

In 1895, British writer Guy Beringer entreated the public to adopt a revolutionary meal that he called brunch. The word itself was, as we all know, a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch, and the idea was almost exactly the same as it is today: Rise late, gather your mates, and chat the afternoon away over a feast of breakfast and lunch fare.

He detailed all the benefits of his innovation in his essay “Brunch: A Plea,” which was published in Hunter’s Weekly. In addition to presenting a compelling case for making brunch a part of one's weekend routine, Beringer also seems like the kind of person you’d want to invite to your own Sunday gathering. For one, Beringer definitely lives to eat.

“Dinner’s the thing; the hour between seven and eight is worth all the rest put together,” Beringer wrote. “In these hurrying, worrying, and scurrying days the sweets of life are too often overlooked, and, with the sweets, the hors d'œuvre, soups, and entrées.”

Brunch, therefore, is a way to put the focus back on the food. It’s also a way to justify letting your Saturday night last into the early hours of Sunday morning, since a late first meal makes waking up early on Sunday “not only unnecessary but ridiculous.” According to Beringer, brunch should begin at 12:30 p.m., so feel free to tell your early-bird friend that the father of brunch would consider their 10:00 a.m. brunch reservation an utter travesty.

To Beringer, brunch was much more conducive to socializing than the quiet, comforting solitude of an early breakfast.

“Brunch ... is cheerful, sociable, and inciting. It is talk-compelling,” he explains. “It puts you in a good temper; it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow-beings. It sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

And, as for the bottomless mimosas, Bloody Marys, and overall boozy nature of brunch these days, Beringer approved of that, too.

“P.S.,” he adds, “Beer and whiskey are admitted as substitutes for tea and coffee.”

You can read his whole groundbreaking composition below.

"When one has reached a certain age, and the frivolities of youth have palled, one's best thoughts are turned in the channel of food. Man's first study is not man, but meals. Dinner is the climax of each day. You may have your chasse café afterwards, in the shape of theatre, music hall, or social gathering; but it is little more than a digestive. Dinner's the thing; the hour between seven and eight is worth all the rest put together. A parallel might be drawn between these sixty minutes and the Nuit de Cléopatre; but neither in length nor moral tendency would it be suitable to Hunter's Weekly. In these hurrying, worrying, and scurrying days the sweets of life are too often overlooked, and, with the sweets, the hors d'œuvre, soups, and entrées. To use a theatrical simile, there is a tendency to regard meals solely as the curtain raisers of the day's performances. Who has not whirlwind friends who rush in upon him, exclaiming, "Let's have a spree to night, old man! We won't bother about feeding; a chop or steak will about do us." What a pitiable frame of mind! Not that I am a gourmet. I hate the term. I regard a gourmet simply as a gourmand with a digestion. Excessive daintiness in regard to food is merely a form of effeminacy, and as such is to be deprecated. But there is a happy medium—everything good, plenty of it, variety and selection. On week days these conditions can without difficulty be fulfilled, but Sunday affords a problem for nice examination. All of us have experienced the purgatory of those Sabbatarian early dinners with their Christian beef and concomitant pie. Have we not eaten enough of them? I think so, and would suggest Brunch as a satisfactory substitute. The word Brunch is a corruption of breakfast and lunch, and the meal Brunch is one which combines the tea or coffee, marmalade and kindred features of the former institution with the more solid attributes of the latter. It begins between twelve and half-past and consists in the main of fish and one or two meat courses.

Apart altogether from animal considerations, the arguments in favor of Brunch are incontestable. In the first place it renders early rising not only unnecessary but ridiculous. You get up when the world is warm, or at least, when it is not so cold. You are, therefore, able to prolong your Saturday nights, heedless of that moral "last train"—the fear of the next morning's reaction. It leaves the station with your usual seat vacant, and many others also unoccupied. If Brunch became general it would be taken off altogether; the Conscience and Care Company, Limited, would run it at a loss. Their receipts on the other days would, however, be correspondingly increased, and they would be able to give their employés a much-needed holiday. The staff has become rather too obstinate and officious of late. That it must be a case of Brunch or morning church I am, of course, aware; but is any busy work-a-day man in a becomingly religious frame of mind after rising eight and nine o'clock on his only "off" morning? If he went to bed in good time the night before, well and good; but Saturday is Saturday, and will remain so. More especially from seven onwards. To a certain extent I am pleading for Brunch from selfish motives. The world would be kinder and more charitable if my brief were successful. To begin with, Brunch is a hospitable meal; breakfast is not. Eggs and bacon are adapted to solitude; they are consoling, but not exhilarating. They do not stimulate conversation. Brunch, on the contrary, is cheerful, sociable, and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper; it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow-beings. It sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week. The advantages of the suggested innovation are, in short, without number, and I submit it is fully time that the old régime of Sunday breakfast made room for the "new course" of Sunday Brunch.

P.S.—Beer and whiskey are admitted as substitutes for tea and coffee."

10 Fascinating Facts About the Thesaurus for National Thesaurus Day

iStock.com/LeitnerR
iStock.com/LeitnerR

Writers often turn to a thesaurus to diversify their vocabulary and add nuance to their prose. But looking up synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus can help anyone—writer or not—find the most vivid, incisive words to communicate thoughts and ideas. Since January 18 is Thesaurus Day, we’re celebrating with these 10 fascinating facts about your thesaurus.

1. Thesaurus comes from the Greek word for treasure.

Greek lettering.
iStock

Most logophiles consider the thesaurus to be a treasure trove of diction, but the word thesaurus really does mean "treasure." It derives from the Greek word thésauros, which means a storehouse of precious items, or a treasure.

2. The plural of thesaurus is thesauruses or thesauri.

Row of old books lined up.
iStock

How do you refer to more than one octopus? People say everything from octopuses to octopi to octopodes. Similarly, many people have trouble figuring out the correct plural form of the word thesaurus. Though thesauri is technically correct—it attaches a Latin suffix to the Latin word thēsaurus—both thesauri and thesauruses are commonly used and accepted today.

3. Early thesauruses were really dictionaries.

Close-up of the term 'ideal' in a thesaurus.
iStock

Ask a French scholar in the 16th century to see his thesaurus, and he'd gladly give you a copy of his dictionary. In the early 1530s, a French printer named Robert Estienne published Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a comprehensive Latin dictionary listing words that appeared in Latin texts throughout an enormous span of history. And in 1572, Estienne's son Henri published Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a dictionary of Greek words. Although the Estiennes's books were called thesauruses, they were really dictionaries comprised of alphabetical listings of words with their definitions.

4. A Greek historian wrote the first book of synonyms.

Stacks of books surrounding an open book and a pair of glasses.
iStock

Philo of Byblos, a Greek historian and grammarian, wrote On Synonyms, a dictionary of synonyms that scholars consider to be the first ancient thesaurus. Dating to the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, the book lists Greek words that are similar in meaning to each another. Sadly, we don’t know much more about On Synonyms because copies of the work haven’t survived over the centuries.

5. An early Sanskrit thesaurus was written in the form of a poem.

Sanskrit lettering.
iStock

In the 4th century CE, an Indian poet and grammarian named Amara Sinha wrote The Amarakosha, a thesaurus of Sanskrit words. Rather than compile a boring list of similar words, Amara Sinha turned his thesaurus into a long poem. Divided into three sections—words relating to the divine, the earth, and everyday life—The Amarakosha contains verses so readers could memorize words easily. This thesaurus is the oldest book of its kind that still exists.

6. A British doctor wrote the first modern thesaurus.

Portrait of Peter Mark Roget.
Thomas Pettigrew, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Peter Mark Roget is the British doctor credited with authoring the first modern thesaurus. In 1805, he began compiling a list of words, arranged by their meaning and grouped according to theme. After retiring from his work as a physician in 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus of English words and phrases; so classified and arranged as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. Today, Roget’s Thesaurus is still commercially successful and widely used. In fact, we celebrate Thesaurus Day on January 18 because Roget was born on this day in 1779.

7. The thesaurus has a surprising link to a mathematical tool.

Image of a vintage log log slide rule.
Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The division between "words people" and "numbers people" is deep-seated. Many mathematicians may try to steer clear of thesauruses, and bibliophiles may avoid calculators, but the thesaurus is actually linked to a mathematical tool. Around 1815, Roget invented the log-log slide rule, a ruler-like device that allows users to easily calculate the roots and exponents of numbers. So while the inventor of the thesaurus was compiling words for his tome, he was also hard at work on the log-log slide rule. A true jack-of-all-trades.

8. The Oxford English Dictionary has its own historical thesaurus.

Synonyms for
iStock

In 1965, a professor of English Language at Glasgow University suggested that scholars should create a historical thesaurus based on entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. The project was a massive undertaking, as people from multiple countries worked for 44 years to compile and classify words. Published in 2009, the Historical Thesaurus to the Oxford English Dictionary contains 800,000 words organized by theme and date. The thesaurus covers words and synonyms from Old English to the present day and lets readers discover when certain words were coined and how long they were commonly used.

9. One artist turned his love of words into a series of thesaurus paintings.

Mel Bochner,
Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004. Francesca Castelli, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2014, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a survey of conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s art. Bochner had incorporated words and synonyms in his paintings for years—which were collectively referred to as the thesaurus paintings—featuring word paintings and lists of synonyms on canvas. The brightly colored paintings feature different groups of English and Yiddish synonyms. According to Bochner, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans cried after seeing his thesaurus painting Die, which features words and phrases such as expire, perish, succumb, drop dead, croak, go belly up, pull the plug, and kick the bucket.

10. There's an urban thesaurus for all your slang synonym needs.

Copy of an Urban Dictionary book.
Effie Yang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Urban Dictionary helps people decipher the latest slang terms, but where should you go when you need a thesaurus of slang? Urban Thesaurus, of course. The site, which is not affiliated with Urban Dictionary, indexes millions of slang terms culled from slang dictionaries, then calculates usage correlations between the terms. Typing in the word money, for example, gives you an eclectic list of synonyms including scrilla, cheddar, mulah, coin, and bling.

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