Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've seen many people make reference to LEGO as Legos. e.g. "I enjoy playing my Legos".

But from my understanding this is incorrect and should be referred to simply as LEGO (in capitals as per company standards) i.e. "I enjoy playing with LEGO".

There is no reference to the terms Legos on the official LEGO site at http://www.lego.com. Although there are hundreds of mentions in LEGO's official message board (search site:lego.com +legos).

I also don't want to accept that individual pieces of a LEGO set can be referred to as Legos as the official site refers to these as "parts" (see http://us.service.lego.com/en-US/replacementparts/default.aspx).

Also a collection of LEGO sets can't be referred to as Legos as these are also referred to as "sets" by the LEGO company.

Is it correct to refer to LEGO in any denomination as Legos?

share|improve this question
add comment

7 Answers

up vote 37 down vote accepted

Owners of trademarks are free to make whatever pronouncements they like regarding how people should use their trademarks. Users of the English language, however, have the final say of how the English language works.

Just as watches made by Rolex are “Rolexes”, Apple computers are “Macs”, shoes made by Puma are “Pumas”, cars made by Audi are “Audis”, portable video games made by Nintendo are “Game Boys”, by the same process toys made by Lego are “Legos”.

“Legos” is a common usage, though not universal, and many people don’t use it especially outside North America. However, the Lego Group, paranoid (completely unreasonably) about maintaining its trademark rights, has taken a strikingly strident tone in trying to force many people to use the English language in a way that is not natural for them. At one time, the web site at legos.com had a message saying this:

Please always refer to our products as “LEGO bricks or toys” and not “LEGOS.” By doing so, you will be helping to protect and preserve a brand of which we are very proud, and that stands for quality the world over”

Of course everyone is free to comply with these corporate demands, but the Lego Group has no authority over the English language to regulate it in this way. So if you want to feel guilty about using “Legos”, understand that the only thing you are guilty of is not obeying the demands of a Danish corporation, not for violating the rules of English grammar.

Edit:

Here is someone’s thesis addressing some grammatical issues with trademarks, which addresses this very issue:

The LEGO Group is another example of a company which tries to strictly adhere to INTA's specifications, and aggressively protect its own trademarks. Its last standing LEGO patent expired in 1988 (CBC News), but despite other competitors moving in on its interlocking brick technology, trademarks can be kept forever, as long as LEGO makes sure to protect them. One almost embarrassing display of trademark anxiety is the domain http://www.legos.com. Upon visiting the domain, the visitor would receive this notice:

“The word LEGO is a brand name, and is very special to all of us in the LEGO Group Companies. We would sincerely like your help in keeping it special. Please always refer to our products as “LEGO bricks or toys” and not “LEGOS.” By doing so, you will be helping to protect and preserve a brand of which we are very proud, and that stands for quality the world over. Thank you!”

The visitor would then be redirected to http://www.lego.com. While it is true that “LEGOS” is not a registered trademark (USPTO), it is ridiculous for the LEGO Group to assume that a consumer's mention of “Legos” instead of “LEGO bricks and toys” is detrimental to the brand, and even more ridiculous to impose rules like this on consumers. What might be most ridiculous of all, though, is the purchase of the domain name, if the LEGO Group is so bent on distancing itself from pluralization of its trademark.

share|improve this answer
4  
+1 For the interesting reference. Thanks. –  xiaohouzi79 Feb 1 '11 at 2:04
5  
One Lego would be what in the official terminology is a single “Lego brick”. –  nohat Feb 1 '11 at 2:47
4  
@nohat: Thankyou! …also — I would give this +1 for the important main point that whatever manufacturers may say, people will use language however it comes most naturally. But I’m reluctant, since parts currently read almost like a prescriptive argument for the American usage… If you could acknowledge how the rest of us use it too, then I’d happily endorse an excellent answer :-) –  PLL Feb 1 '11 at 4:38
2  
@Bruno: the usual reasoning, from all I can tell, is "oh noes, our Precious® Brand™ is being watered down!" They don't want people to be hoovering with a Bosch, googling with Yahoo, or asking for a kleenex and getting a Tempo. –  RegDwigнt Feb 1 '11 at 11:08
5  
Once your brand name becomes common usage for a type of thing (e.g. Lego for building blocks that look like Lego, or Hoover for vacuum cleaners) then your right to trademark that name can be lost, legally. –  Matt Эллен Feb 1 '11 at 16:37
show 9 more comments

In Danish (where the name comes from; derived from "leg godt" meaning "play good"), Norwegian and Swedish, the name is an uncountable noun. I think it's both because it refers more to a concept than any actual piece. And also many of the pieces are small enough to be effectively "uncountable" like "grain", "sand" etc. I would personally use the word as an uncountable noun in English too. Calling it "Legos" sounds a bit odd (like saying "the Internets" etc.).

But unless you're writing advertising material and have to bother with trademarks etc., I would only capitalize the first letter, e.g.: "I enjoy playing with Lego with my nephew"

share|improve this answer
9  
+1 internets for you –  mplungjan Feb 1 '11 at 13:38
9  
"Legos" is decidedly American, I don't think you'll ever hear a Brit saying that they played with "Legos" as a kid. At first I thought Americans were just trying to get the British back for calling maths "math". It is great to know that Lego is so obviously the right pronunciation when given the derivation. –  ukayer Oct 20 '11 at 4:26
5  
Yes. Some in the UK might go to the trouble of saying "Lego bricks", but most would treat it as an uncountable noun and call it "Lego"; never "Legos". –  njd Nov 4 '11 at 12:21
    
Note that in French (yes, this is OT), Lego is used as a de facto common name and we say casually "she plays with Legos" (elle joue aux Legos). Also note that there should be an accent at Légo to provide the correct intonation in french. –  Oct Jan 29 at 13:44
add comment

The natural English language inclination would be to call the bricks (and other pieces) "Legos", but to trademark lawyers, trademarks are always adjectives, not nouns. For this reason, the Lego company produced a famous warning not just on their web site, but long before the web existed. It was printed on the little catalogs that came in our sets:

Susan Williams note from 1985 catalog

The note said:

Dear Parents and Children

LEGO® is a brand name that is very special to all of us in the LEGO Group Companies. We would sincerely appreciate your help in keeping it special by referring to our bricks as "LEGO Bricks or Toys" and not just "LEGOS". By doing so, you will be helping to protect and preserve a brand that stands for quality the world over.

If at any time we can be of service to you regarding our products, please feel free to write to us.

Susan Williams

"Susan Williams" was a fiction, the personification of the Customer Affairs department — but, as if she were Santa Claus, in those days Lego always acted if she were very much real. If you wrote a letter to Lego and got a response, "she" signed it (see this example of a Susan Williams letter). So, it was a personal request. And it was a request from a person representing a company we all loved, because we loved their product.

So, when the sort of enthusiastic children who loved Lego so much that they read the fine print of the catalog and wrote letters to the company, we took the admonishment very seriously — but, I think, generally missed the point. Not being trademark lawyers, the messge didn't read as "call them bricks or toys, not lego" — it was "don't call them legos!" So, we grew up with that warning in our minds, carefully playing with lego even as we casually blew our noses on kleenexes and tossed our unwanted xeroxes in dumpsters.

For this reason, the Lego vs. Legos debate has become a sort of shibboleth for the fan community. It's a signifier that the person you're talking to either grew up as one of those geeky fans, or is tied into the loose network of builders, makers, and artists for whom Lego is a passion. In many ways the technical correctness (or hyper-correctness) isn't as important as this cultural implication.

share|improve this answer
1  
Thanks for your effort on both questions! –  xiaohouzi79 Nov 5 '11 at 7:56
add comment

Since the owner of the name chooses always to use “LEGO”, then it is not strictly correct to call the toy anything else. But I doubt the company’s brand protection lawyers are going to start serving cease-and-desist orders on children calling the building blocks “Legos”.

I think “Legos” is predominantly an American English thing. As youngsters in the UK my friends and I always referred to it as “Lego”.

As for writing the name in all-caps: while that is clearly the manufacturer’s preference, it could appear to stand out as unusual emphasis in casual writing.

share|improve this answer
2  
Interesting for you to mention US English as I am in Australia and from memory my friends always referred to it as just Lego. So maybe it is a US thing. –  xiaohouzi79 Feb 1 '11 at 2:03
1  
This is definitely an American English thing. In my experience - I've discussed this with quite a few friends on both sides of the pond - it's pretty consistently called Lego in the UK and Australia, and Legos in the US. Not sure about Canada. –  PLL Feb 1 '11 at 2:40
1  
@PLL: In the US, Legos is a noun and Lego is an adjective. –  Jon Purdy Feb 1 '11 at 4:22
    
@Jon: absolutely, yes — good clarification, I’d only been thinking of the nouns. –  PLL Feb 1 '11 at 4:25
1  
@PLL: On second thought, "a Lego" is a single Lego brick. Argh. –  Jon Purdy Feb 1 '11 at 4:30
show 2 more comments

its the same as 'wood'. plural form is not 'woods'. You do not have planks of woods, you have planks of wood. I have a piece of wood, not i have woods. I have a piece of LEGO, not I have legos

share|improve this answer
4  
And your reference for your assertion that it is the same as "wood"? (From the other answers, it would appear that non-US speakers generally agree with you and US speakers generally don't, so I am asking what is your authority for making such a bold assertion). –  Colin Fine Feb 1 '11 at 14:55
1  
Given English can from England (thus non-US) the non-US win on how you use our language?? –  Simeon Pilgrim Aug 16 '12 at 17:48
add comment

I think the issue here is the issue of plurality. Lego is the same in plural form as it is in singular.

"a piece of lego"

"pieces of lego"

I would argue the word has moved from a proper noun to a general noun, so long has it been in the language; hence my use of it in lowercase. The representation of it in allcaps, is a marketing device of the company, for trademark usage, they do not use it themselves within most text, so I do not believe it to be necessary (particularly as that usually indicates an acronym, which it is not). If keeping it as a proper noun, then it should be initial caps.

share|improve this answer
2  
Where are you familiar with this usage from? In the US, it’s definitely typically inflected in the plural, as legos; in the UK, at least for me and my friends, lego definitely functioned as a mass noun, not as an uninflected plural: “Have you still got your lego?” “No, my parents gave it away when I went to uni.” rather than “*No, my parents gave them away…” –  PLL Feb 1 '11 at 4:29
1  
@PLL: Well I typically only ever speak for British English, and will explicitly state if straying in to American. In the UK, legos would definitely be viewed as wrong. You are right on the mass noun part. –  Orbling Feb 1 '11 at 12:24
    
Agreed that legos is definitely wrong in the UK; what I meant was that in my experience, so is treating lego as plural. I would never say/expect “?Your lego are all over the floor,” only “Your lego is all over the floor.” But you would use the former of those, or at least find it acceptable? (FWIW, I was brought up — at least at peak lego-playing ages — mostly in London [reading your comment here, I’ll clarify: Queens Park]; perhaps this is regional difference?) –  PLL Feb 1 '11 at 17:23
    
The company insists that LEGO is not a noun at all. In their company profile the go so far as to say "It should always be accompanied by a noun. For example, LEGO set, LEGO products, LEGO Group". –  Dave Jul 31 '13 at 20:43
    
@Dsve: Yes, they fight hard to keep it as a trademark and not a standard word, thus they always want it to be a pronoun, and a mark of ownership on any other noun describing the products. –  Orbling Jul 31 '13 at 21:45
add comment

Is it correct to refer to LEGO in any denomination as Legos?

Technically, no. However, this didn't stop people from referring to Band-Aid bandages as bandaids. The brand name LEGO could be in the process of being genericized.

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by RegDwigнt Jul 21 '11 at 23:24

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.