Yo-yo is proudly pinoy avatar
Yohan Yuki Xie
 | | 3 minutes read

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Did you know? “Yo-yo” was invented by a Filipino. It was a design by Pedro Flores and first sold in 1928 under his company Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California. The word “Yo-yo” and the modern design of this ancient toy is proudly Pinoy.

Etymology and history

While the toy itself is ancient and is known by various names such as diabolo in China (approximately 1000 BCE) and bandalore in the 17th century, the modern word “Yo-yo” and the modern design of a yo-yo was pretty much recent.

The word “yo-yo” probably came from the Ilokano word “yóyo”, or a cognate word in a language in the Philippines.1

In 1928, Pedro Flores, a Filipino immigrant to the United States of America, opened the “Yo-yo Manufacturing Company” in Santa Barbara, California. The business started with a dozen handmade toys; by November of 1929, Flores was operating two additional factories in Los Angeles and Hollywood, which all together employed 600 workers and produced 300,000 units daily.2

The principal distinction between the Filipino design popularized by Flores and more primitive yo-yos is in the way the yo-yo is strung. In older (and some remaining inexpensive) yo-yo designs, the string is tied to the axle using a knot. With this technique, the yo-yo just goes back and forth; it returns easily, but it is impossible to make it sleep. In Flores’s design, one continuous piece of string, double the desired length, is twisted around something to produce a loop at one end which is fitted around the axle. Also termed a looped slip-string, this seemingly minor modification allows for a far greater variety and sophistication of motion, thanks to increased stability and suspension of movement during free spin.2


Pedro Flores was not the one who trademarked the name “Yo-yo” for this modern design of the ancient toy. It was registered as a trademark in 1932 by Sam Dubiner in Vancouver, Canada.2

However, in a trademark case in 1965, a federal court of appeal ruled in favor of the Royal Tops Company, the court explained that “yo-yo” had become a part of common speech and that Duncan (who bought Flores’s “Yo-yo” company) no longer had exlusive rights to the term.2


Whenever we use the word yo-yo, remember that it was originally a company name “Yo-yo Manufacturing Company” and originated from languages in the Philippines. In addition to that, whenever we see and/or play yo-yo, also remember that the modern design we are enjoying today was made by Pedro Flores in 1928 who provided jobs for 600 workers.

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Yohan Yuki Xieㆍ사요한・謝雪矢·ᜌᜓᜃᜒIf this is not the end of oblivion, then I shall live everyday as if my life were to end this very day.

The YOOki Chronicles

The YOOki Chronicles is Yohan Yuki Xie’s return into casual and personal blogging. The name “YOOki” is a mash-up of the acronym of YourOnly.One and my nickname ᜌᜓᜃᜒ (Yuki・雪矢).

Interestingly, according to Chinese legend, (YOO) is an ancient Chinese surname. The ancestors of the surname were closely linked with the ancient sage-king named Yu Shun. In Korea, the (YU) lineage traces to the Xia, Han, and Joseon dynasties. Holders of the surname Yu or Yoo had a reputation for charity and diligence.1

It is also the word for “willow” or the “willow tree” which means graceful or slender; and a tree growing near a body of water which provide continuous nourishment and resources for everyone. It can also mean to exist, an oil (anointment(?)), and simply as “U” (you).

The Hanzi (ki) character means to record, be disciplined, provide order. While the Hangeul equivalent, (ki), means energy, spirit, a banner, and a period of time; and is also a suffix used to make a gerund or an infinitive.

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