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Toilet History – “Bathroom” vs. “Toilet”

Jul 24, 2009

When did we start calling this the toilet?

When did we start calling this the toilet?

The other day my friend said to me, “Excuse me for a second while I go toilet to brush my teeth.” I thought to myself, “Gee, I hope you’re not actually brushing your teeth in the toilet water!”  This statement got me thinking – when did the nouns “toilet” and “bathroom” become interchangeable? Besides the obvious reason that the toilet is located in the bathroom, there are still plenty of cases where one says ,”I’m going to the toilet” when all he is doing is shaving, fixing his hair, or brushing his teeth.  So why in the world would one then reference or define this room by its most unpleasant feature?

Your guess is as good as mine, but this got me thinking.  What other names do people refer to that sacred room by?  According to bathroom historian Frank Muir, the toilet and/or the outhouse have at one time or another been called:
•    “House of Honor” – the ancient Israelite
•    “House of the Morning” – the ancient Egyptians
•    The “garderobe” – literally “cloakroom”
•    The necessarium/the necessary house
•    The reredorter – literally “the room at the back of the dormitory”
•    The privy/ the private place
•    The jake/ the john
•    The loo – mostly Europe/U.K.
•    The W.C. (for water closet) – mostly Europe/UK
•    Room 100 – mostly Europe
•    The lavatory
•     The closet of ease
•    The Throne
•    Countless other nouns

Who would’ve thought?  The reredorter?  The House of Morning?  I guess the “toilet” makes more sense afterall…

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26 Responses to “Toilet History – “Bathroom” vs. “Toilet””

  1. dentalportable - December 14th, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Nice article, thanks

  2. Joann - January 9th, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Nice article. I remember when my son was 3,I took him fishing and he was intrigued with the outhouse. I spent more time taking him back and forth to the outhouse than I did fishing!

  3. oakville cleaning service - April 11th, 2010 at 11:41 am

    My grand parents have an old out house by their place. Actually I used it last week because the regular washroom was being used and I couldnt wait.

    It was cold and dark in there…

  4. Salvia Divinorum - July 13th, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I haven’t used an outhouse in ages! Even most campsites have toilet facilities connected to the grid.

  5. Molly - July 14th, 2010 at 5:42 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever used an outhouse!

  6. new condos in coeur d'alene - August 10th, 2010 at 5:13 am

    I prefer to use the term “bathroom” because it encompasses a lot of things you can do inside a bathroom. You can pee, brush your teeth, take a bath, etc.

  7. Molly - August 10th, 2010 at 8:29 am

    That’s true. I’ve always said bathroom myself.

  8. Dr. Chris Mohler - August 12th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I think the words toilet and bathroom have been interchangeable since French. I mean think of it this way, “au touliettes?”

  9. Karen - August 19th, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I believe its a matter of what a person prefers to use that doesn’t sound awful. I remembered when I was I was a kid, I used to use the term “toilet or bathroom” when I mean I need to pee. However my English teacher corrected me and said it would be appropriate to use washroom. That confused me because the toilet,washing area and bath tub are just in the same room. Now, I understand, it sounds awful to her the term “toilet”.

  10. new houses - August 22nd, 2010 at 10:14 am

    When I hear toilet I always think of the toilet bowl. I think bathroom sounds better. In Taiwan, they say Water Closet instead of bathroom or toilet.

  11. Start a Cleaning Service Business - August 30th, 2010 at 1:30 am

    You have a very nice topic why do people usually say that they are going to the toilet. What am I thinking is that toilet was the firstly made then became bathroom when people include some other useful facilities.

  12. Marine Directory - September 2nd, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Just use the word washroom. It encompasses everything! And its more meaningful.

  13. Jean@web development coeur d'alene - September 9th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    In other countries, toilet bowl is a dirty term. However for me, Bathroom is the appropriate term. It connoted sanitation.

  14. Molly - September 16th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Yes washroom seems to work because with modern facilities the toilet is usually in the same room as sinks and showers. Perhaps toilet was correct when there was only the outhouse?

  15. Secure Hosting - December 27th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    You know what I’ve always wondered? Why it’s called the John when it was Tom who invented the toilet in the first place? It just has always made little sense to me- I thought credit was to be given where due.

  16. städfirma - March 1st, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Great article, now I know why its called john!


  17. Lauren Clark Photography - May 6th, 2011 at 2:01 am

    I think “the closet of ease” is so appropriate! 😉 Maybe we should include “potty” in that list, don’t you think so? :)

  18. Molly - May 6th, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Potty has come to be popular, one of those colloquialisms in everyday language.

  19. Root Canal West Hollywood - June 7th, 2011 at 11:48 am

    “House of the Morning”? That’s the first for me. I’ve heard of “loo” and “the john” for common names. These are funny. Hope no one ever uses toilet water to brush their teeth! However, did you hear about the study with ice being DIRTIER than toilet water?

  20. Dentist West Hollywood - June 27th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    These are funny sayings. I think I’ll start using “privy” with an English accent because it’s more fun to say it that way. LOL.

  21. Jarvis Photography - July 17th, 2011 at 1:02 am

    The Jake! Oh my! After months and months of deciding on what to name our baby boy — who’s coming out in September — now I think we’re back to square 1! :( We thought Jacob (Jake) was such a nice name for a boy!

  22. greenville, nc portrait photographer - July 20th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Molly! I had fun reading your article. :) This ubiquitous little room has indeed played a major role in people’s lives, no matter which culture they belong to.

  23. Tidy Heide - August 23rd, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    It’s great to find yourself smiling after going through an article. From the “House of Honor” to the “The Closet of Ease,” I can’t help chuckling. Thanks, Molly!

    Don’t forget “restroom” and “comfort room” though. 😉

  24. Molly - August 24th, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Glad we could provide a laugh!

  25. Portable Closets - July 7th, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Finally I found the good blog to read on your website. Thanks for sharing the good contents and I have enjoyed reading it.
    Thank you

  26. Check Proxies - August 23rd, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    It is actually a classic nice and practical section of data. I am happy that you provided this convenient information and facts about. Remember to be us all informed in this way. Many thanks for revealing.

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