Monday, March 4Not Your Ordinary English-Tagalog Dictionary

What is Yo-Yo in Tagalog? Origin, Myths, and Pedro Flores

The yo-yo in Tagalog is also called “yo-yo,” and is considered to be one of the oldest toys in the world. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “yo-yo” is “probably from Ilocano yoyo, or a cognate word in a language of the Philippines.” Some people also believe that it means “come back,” which makes sense since this is what the toy does. 

Pedro Flores yoyo
Filipino yoyo-maker, Pedro Flores and his yo-yo

According to some reports, ancient Filipinos invented the yo-yo and used it as a weapon or a hunting tool. Allegedly, the locals during the 16th century climbed on trees and waited for enemies and prey to pass by. Then, they throw rocks tied to a 20-foot-long cord and pull the “yo-yo” back. However, there is no historical or archeological evidence to support these claims. 

Another myth about the yo-yo is that it originates in China. But instead, evidence shows that the toy existed in ancient Greece in 500 BCE. At that time, the yo-yo was made of metal, wood, or painted terra cotta (clay) disks. According to ancient Greek tradition, children are obliged to offer their clay toys to their gods once they become adults.  

As additional proof, a vase painting from 440 BC depicting a boy playing the clay yo-yo was also uncovered. The actual ancient toys are now displayed in the National Museum of Athens, Greece. Documents from ancient Egypt also show drawings of objects that look like yo-yo. Meanwhile, historical records reveal that the yo-yo has existed in India since 1765. 

Before the yo-yo got its name, the toy was called bandalore. This old version of the yo-yo has a string that automatically pulls back the toy to the user’s hand once thrown. The first US patent for the toy was awarded to James L. Haven and Charles Hettrick on November 20, 1866. This improved version of the bandalore was then called “whirligig.” 

However, it was a Filipino named Pedro Edralin Flores who popularized the yo-yo. Born in Ilocos Norte, Philippines, Flores went to the US in 1915 and studied law. He eventually dropped out and did odd jobs, including being a bellboy. While playing yo-yo in front of the guests, Flores realized that he could improve the toy and make it “sleep.” 

Instead of simply tying a knot around the axle of the bandalore, Flores used a string loop, which allowed the toy to sleep. This made the yo-yo more interesting to play with since users can perform many other tricks aside from going up and down. In 1928, Flores established his own yo-yo-making company in Santa Barbara, California. 

About 1-2 years later, Flores sold his company to American entrepreneur, Donald F. Duncan Sr., the founder of the Duncan Toys Company. The Filipino yo-yo maker helped in promoting the Duncan yo-yo in the US. Since then, a lot of different yo-yo techniques have been developed and National Yo-Yo Day is celebrated every June 6, Duncan’s birthday. 

There is an annual World Yo-Yo Contest, with Japanese yo-yo master Shinji Saito, winning 13 world titles. He once visited the country to support the Philippine National Yo-Yo Contest. Among the common yo-yo tricks are Walk the Dog, Around the World, and Rock the Baby. The yo-yo in the Philippines is like the toy itself. It sometimes sleeps but eventually comes back.

Use yo-yo in a sentence.


Mas gusto ko paglaruan ang yo-yo kesa sa lato-lato. Tahimik na, hindi pa delikado.


I would love to play yo-yo instead of lato-lato. It’s quiet and safe.

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