Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Often, brand names become so popular, the brand name starts being used as a generic noun.

Today we are going to discuss a few of these!

This topic will allow you to:

  • Expand your vocabulary
  • Learn more about brands versus actual words
  • Give you conversation topics to have with friends

Why do we say Kleenex when we mean tissue?

Do you say Kleenex or tissue?

Kleenex is a brand name that has come to mean the generic thing being referred to.

Kleenex is a very famous, well-known tissue brand.

Eventually people started saying “Kleenex” to refer to tissue.

This is very common – natives do it all the time!


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What is a proprietary eponym?

When brand names are used as generic nouns, it’s called a few different things.

  • Proprietary eponym
  • Genericized trademark
  • Generic trademark 

We got this idea because we spoke about Kleenex in episode 1407 about oxymorons.

There may be many kinds of these objects from different companies, but one becomes the general word for the item.

Most common proprietary eponyms

  • Chapstick: lip balm
  • Band-Aid: bandage; adhesive bandage
  • Jacuzzi: hot tub
  • Escalator: moving staircase
  • Xerox: photocopier
  • Hula hoop: toy hoop

For each of these, natives say the brand name to refer to the item.

This situation can actually make a trademark invalid.

Sometimes a trademark may be at risk for not being a trademark at all due to a proprietary eponym.

Language is constantly evolving

Language changes all the time.

It is important to follow these changes.

Some of these you wouldn’t discuss because most people know they’re a brand.

  • Chapstick
  • Band-Aid
  • Kleenex

However, many of these would be a great conversation starter because most people don’t know they are a brand name!

How to start the conversation

If you want to start a conversation with someone about this, here is what you could say!

Hey, did you know that an escalator is actually a brand, and it is really called a moving staircase?

Apparently, a hula hoop is just one type of toy hoop, but the term evolved and now it is more generic.


This is a fun thing to talk about, so it makes a great conversation starter!

Try these out today, and know they are good discussion topics.

It is also a good way to expand your vocabulary!

Learning proprietary eponyms will help you be more aware of different brands.

It will also help you know which are used as generic nouns.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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