While the word Frisbee is claimed as a trademark of the Wham-O toy company, the term is often used generically to describe flying discs similar to those made by that company. They are generally plastic, roughly 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm) in diameter, with a lip. They are designed to fly aerodynamically when thrown with rotation and can be caught by hand.
The shape and quality of frisbees varies significantly, and a high-quality frisbee easily flies several times as far as a cheap frisbee. Disc golf disks are usually smaller in diameter but are more dense and are tailored for particular flight profiles such as stability or distance. When it was discovered that dogs enjoyed chasing and retrieving the slow-moving discs, special frisbees were eventually designed with more pliable material that would more resist damage when the dog caught one in its mouth. Disc dog competitions, in which dogs' frisbee-catching skills are judged, have become quite popular, as well.
Many frisbee-like discs are shaped like a frisbee with a large hole in the centre; such discs, known as aerofoils, typically fly significantly farther.
The Flyin-Saucer, originally invented by Walter Frederick Morrison and codeveloped and financed by Warren Franscioni in 1948, was unsuccessful, but a later model made by Morrison in 1955 and sold as the "Pluto Platter" was bought by Wham-O in 1957. Wham-O renamed the toy in 1958 to "Frisbee", a (probably deliberate) misspelling of the name of the Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, whose pie tins had been used by Yale college students in the area for similar purposes. The first flying disks were produced on January 13, 1957.
Upon his death, Morrison was cremated, and his ashes, in accordance with his final requests, were put into Frisbees.
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The disc's rotation creates an angular moment perpendicular to the horizontal plane, stabilizing the disc's attitude in high speed flight. Small ridges near the leading edge act as vortex generators, reducing flow separation by energizing the (relatively minor) boundary air layer. Lift is generated in primarily the same way as a traditional airfoil.