What Is a Toy? Outdated Definitions

6a0133ec87bd6d970b01bb08fe52c6970d 222
Recently, I was surprised, when a client asked me, as part of some research I was conducting, to provide a simple definition of the word: "Toy". "Easy enough", I thought, "I'll just pull something from the dictionary." Here is what I found:

MacMillan

"An object that a child can play with, especially a model of a real thing such as a car or an animal."

Collins Dictionary

"A toy is an object that children play with, for example, a doll or a model car."

Oxford Dictionary

"An object for a child to play with, typically a model or miniature replica of something."

The Free Dictionary

"An object for a child to play with."

Miriam-Webster

"Something for a child to play with."  

Isn't it amazing that, here in the second decade of the 21st century, all of these dictionaries are still defining a toy as something only for a child.  A definition that implies: "No Adults Allowed to Play."
 
Based upon the definitions provided and the incredibly outdated examples given it is doubtful that any of these dictionary editors has taken the time to rethink the definition in decades or in some cases a century.

 
Now, you may be thinking as you read this: "Who cares?" Well, maybe we who work in the toy industry should care because these dictionaries provide what the public sees as the "official " meaning of a word. How many times have you heard those irritating words: "The dictionary says…"
 
More concerning is that they may reflect how, at least some of the public thinks of toys. 
 
We in the toy industry may want to think about the need to aggressively put our definition of "Toy" out there so that it is in sync with the reality of play today. 
 
In the meantime, does anyone know who to call at Miriam-Webster?
 

2 thoughts

  1. I had a similar question recently. What is the definition of a game? My play sets are for creative, imaginative play – there are no rules and there are no winners and losers. But, many people want to call it a game. So, I looked it up and was surprised to find:
    1. an amusement or pastime: “children’s games”.
    2. the material or equipment used in playing certain games: “a store selling toys and games”.
    3. a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators.
    I’m trying to think of a “game” that is an amusement of pastime, but doesn’t have rules and is not competitive.
    Interested in your thoughts.

  2. So what was your answer to your client? What is your definition? Wikipedia has an inclusive definition with focus on children.

Leave a Reply