What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? (2022)

Posted on Thursday 30th May 2019

What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? (1)

Bog, Loo, Shi… that’s enough! Everyone has a different name for the humble toilet that sits centre stage in bathroom suites across the world. So, in celebration of the fact that the human race has such a huge range of names for this most private of facilities, we’ve put together a list of the alternative words for toilet that are used across the UK, Europe and internationally.

Read on to discover some alternative words for toilet and where they come from.

Where does the word toilet come from?

Let’s begin with the most popular - toilet.

The word toilet is French in origin and is derived from the word ‘toilette’, which translates as ‘dressing room’, rather than today’s meaning. Toilette itself has its roots in another word; ‘toile’, which means ‘cloth’.

This cloth would be draped over someone while their hair was being groomed. The word then gained a broader meaning, covering various procedures and routines that involved getting ready for the day ahead. In fact, the whole process of getting ready in the morning became known as ‘completing one’s toilet’.

As going to the toilet in a chamber pot was part of this process, the word toile became increasingly associated with the physical act of ‘going to the toilet’. By the twentieth century, the word toilet had lost its former meaning of getting ready in the morning.

What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? (2)


The Bog

So, with the origins of the word toilet established, let’s take a look at some alternative words to toilet.

One of the cruder words on this list, the use of the word ‘bog’ to refer to the toilet dates back to 1789, when it took the form ‘boghouse’. Boghouse comes from the British slang meaning to defecate, so when you go the bog, you really are being quite literal!

(Video) English conversation. Should I say bathroom, toilet, or WC? #learnenglish #englishconversation

Cludgie

Another rather vulgar term for toilet is ‘cludgie’. It refers to an outside toilet and is predominantly used in Scotland.

Comfort Room (CR)

Arising for similar reasons as ‘restroom’, ‘comfort room’ is in common usage in the Philippines (as well as a few neighbouring countries), as an alternative word to toilet. Just as toilets are sometimes referred to as the WC (an initialism of Water Closet), in the Philippines, toilets are sometimes simply referred to as the CR.

Crapper

A rather more vulgar word for toilet is ‘crapper’. First appearing in 1932, crapper became a popular alternative word for toilet thanks to the Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd company that manufactured toilets. Although Thomas Crapper didn’t actually invent the toilet, he did create several innovations including the floating ballcock and the u-bend. But, just as brand names such as Hoover become synonymous with a type of product, so Crapper’s name became synonymous with the toilet.

Dunny

Take a trip down under and you’ll undoubtedly hear this word being used to refer to a trip to the toilet. Dunny originally comes from the British word ‘dunnekin’, which means ‘dung house. In Scotland, dunny originally meant an underground passage or cellar (you certainly wouldn’t want to confuse these two different meanings!).

As an interesting aside, the poor soul who had the unfortunate job of emptying the pan beneath the seat in a ‘dunny’ was known as a ‘dunnyman’.

Head

If you were (unlucky?) enough to be on a ship during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, you’d have had to go to the toilet at the head (or bow) of the ship. So, another word for the toilet was born. The toilet was located in this part of the ship as the waves would rise up against the bow, washing the waste away.

The first known use of the term was in 1708, when Woodes Rogers, Governor of the Bahamas, wrote ‘head’ to refer to a ship’s toilet in his book, A Cruising Voyage Around the World.

House of Office

Very much an alternative word for toilet that has died out, ‘house of office’ was commonly used in seventeenth century England to apply to the standalone toilet (or outhouse). The famous diarist Samuel Pepys made numerous references to the house of office, writing in his diary on 23rd October, 1660 “(G)oing down into my cellar… I put my foot into a great heap of turds, by which I find Mr Turner’s house of office is full and comes into my cellar.” Not the best way to discover your neighbour’s toilet is full…

What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? (3)


The Jacks

The jacks is Irish slang for toilet, derived from the older English word for toilet jakes. Jakes itself comes from ‘The John’ (see above).

The John

Sir John Harrington was the inventor of the forerunner of the first flushing toilet (known as the Ajax), so it’s only fitting that his first name should have become synonymous with the toilet.

(Video) English Vocabulary - Going to the Toilet Part 01

A writer who lived in the sixteenth century and was one of Queen Elizabeth I’s god-children, Sir John came up with the word Ajax for his flushing toilet from the word ‘Jakes’ which was at the time a slang term for toilet.

Shortly after devising the first flushing toilet, he released A New Discourse Upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax, a book which got him banished from the Royal court due to his sly digs at the Earl of Leicester and its talk of excrement poisoning the state.

Despite his reputation for causing mischief and calumny with his words, his invention was viewed as a genuine innovation.

Khazi

Another slightly dated alternative word to the toilet, ‘khazi’ (also spelt karzy, kharsie or carzey) is derived from the low Cockney word ‘carsey’, meaning a privy. It has its roots in the nineteenth century, but gained popular usage during the twentieth century.

Some lexicographers (a person who compiles dictionaries), suggest that khazi could have come from the Italian word casa, which means house. Others think that khazi could be derived from Swahili - ‘M’khazi’ means latrine in this African language.

Latrine

The word Latrine has its roots in both Latin and French. It comes from the Latin word for wash, ‘lavare’. Over time, this Latin word evolved into ‘lavatrina’ which was then shortened to ‘latrina’ before eventually becoming ‘latrine’ courtesy of the French people in the mid-1600s.

Today, the word ‘latrine’ is not really in common usage. Instead, it appears to be a term predominantly used by the military. The Army and RAF apply it to any area where human waste is disposed of, whereas a civilian would normally refer to these areas as toilets or bathrooms.

Lavatory

Another word with a Latin root, lavatory comes from ‘lavare’. During the Medieval period it evolved into ‘lavatorium’ (which means washbasin), before arriving at the lavatory at some point in the 14th century.

What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? (4)


Loo

Despite being a very British word for toilet, ‘loo’ is actually derived from the French phrase ‘guardez l’eau’, which means ‘watch out for the water’.

This delightful phrase gained popularity due to the habits of medieval Europeans who would shout the phrase before emptying their chamber pots out of their bedroom windows into the street below.

(Video) Do I have to use the word toilet?

The British soon adopted this phrase, but as with any phrase it changed once it crossed the border to become ‘gardy-loo’. Over time, it became loo and was applied to the toilet itself.

The Netty

A very colloquial phrase, ‘the netty’ is a phrase that is largely confined to the North East of England. Nobody is quite sure of the exact origins of this word, although it’s thought to be either a corruption of the word graffiti or from daubings on Hadrian’s Wall. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in Newcastle or Sunderland and say you’re ‘Gannin’ to the netty’, the locals will know you’re off to do your business…

Pissoir

Yet another alternative word for toilet derived from French, ‘pissoir’ is derived from the Middle French word ‘pisser’, which means to urinate. In France, the term was largely used to refer to public urinals.

Powder Room

Commonly used to refer to women’s toilets in public buildings in America, ‘powder room’ originated during the Prohibition. Toilets provided for women in bars during this period were referred to as powder rooms… and the name stuck!

The Privy

Rarely used these days, ‘the privy’ originally meant a hidden place or the sharing of secret or private thoughts. Over time, however, especially in the North of England and Scotland, the word privy was conflated with toilet, and eventually, this new meaning supplanted the old meaning.

What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? (5)

Restroom

In America, you’ll often hear the toilet referred to as the ‘restroom’. This alternative word for toilet first gained popular usage in the early twentieth century. Alluding to the toilet as somewhere one could ‘have a rest’ and ‘refresh oneself’, it’s redolent of an age when our turns of phrase erred on the side of modesty.

Vin

A very unusual alternative word for toilet is ‘vin’. It has its roots in the English aristocracy and upper classes. It was used to refer to the indoor toilet (as at the time, only the very wealthy had indoor toilets). Today, it’s extremely rare, although a few private schools continue to use the term.

It is also suggested that vin is a corruption of vin de toilette, or toilet wine!

Water Closet (WC)

The phrase ‘water closet’ arose in England in the 1870s. Originally ‘wash-down closet’, it quickly evolved into the phrase water closet through common usage. Over time, it has simply become ‘WC’. In fact, in some countries such as Mexico WC is widely used on toilet signage, although the majority of the population don’t actually know the derivations of the letters.

Modern Toilets

What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? (6)
(Video) The Guys Who Designed Public Bathroom Stalls

Toilets these days are still called different names throughout the world but they have developed dramatically since the basic hole in the ground or bucket. With amazing plumbing systems and developments in technology you've now got the choice of a bog-standard close coupled toilet, a wall hung toilet, a 2-in-1 toilet and sink, and even dual flush and water-saving options. This wonderful choice allows you to find the best toilet, bog, WC, or loo for your home.

Claire Davies

Claire has a Journalism degree and loves writing about all things relating to bathroom and kitchen design. In her spare time, she enjoys photography and following the latest home styling trends on social media.

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FAQs

What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? ›

toilet
  • bath,
  • bathroom,
  • bog.
  • [British],
  • can,
  • cloakroom.
  • [British],
  • comfort station,

Where did the word toilet come from? ›

The Middle French word 'toile' ("cloth") had a diminutive form: 'toilette', or "small piece of cloth." This word became 'toilet' in English, and referred to a cloth put over the shoulders while dressing the hair or shaving.

What is slang for toilet? ›

commode. crapper (coarse slang) crapper trapper (coarse slang, rare) devil's back roads (slang, rare) dunny (AU&NZ, slang)

What did they call a toilet in the olden days? ›

Water Closet

A “toilet” was just a dressing table or washstand, a meaning that eventually got flushed away when water closets adopted the moniker. In the 1880s, the earliest flushing water closets were made to resemble familiar chamber pots and commodes.

What are toilets called in England? ›

Loo. Despite being a very British word for toilet, 'loo' is actually derived from the French phrase 'guardez l'eau', which means 'watch out for the water'.

What do they call toilets in Europe? ›

Most European countries are short on public restrooms, but I can teach you how to sniff out a biffy in a jiffy. If you ask for a "restroom" or "bathroom," you'll get no relief. Instead, say "Toilet" or "WC" (short for Water Closet); these terms are direct, simple, and understood.

What do they call a toilet in Australia? ›

dunny – a toilet, the appliance or the room – especially one in a separate outside building. This word has the distinction of being the only word for a toilet which is not a euphemism of some kind. It is from the old English dunnykin: a container for dung. However Australians use the term toilet more often than dunny.

What was the first name for a toilet? ›

So with time on his hands, Harington came up with Britain's first flushing toilet, which he called the “Ajax” (apparently from “a jakes,” a common slang word for an outhouse). In 1596, he even detailed his work in a tongue-in-cheek book called “A New Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax.”

Why is a toilet called a Jake? ›

In 16th century England, Jake was a common nickname for a yokel — a hick. In the days when there was no indoor plumbing as we enjoy today, "Jakes" or "Jake's House" made for useful euphemisms for the latrine.

What is a toilet called in Ireland? ›

In Ireland, 'the jacks' means 'toilet', most commonly used to refer to public bathrooms. Every Irish person knowns what this term means, but few know why they use it – indeed it's difficult to find a solid explanation. Some believe it to be derived from the Tudor English term 'jakes', first used in the 16th century.

What is a male toilet called? ›

A urinal (US: /ˈjʊərənəl/, UK: /jʊəˈraɪnəl/) is a sanitary plumbing fixture for urination only. Urinals are often provided in public toilets for male users in Western countries (less so in Muslim countries).

What were bathrooms called in the 1700s? ›

2000 years ago and built public toilets called Latrines. There was no toilet paper, so they used communal sponge on a stick, which were kept in a bucket of water after every use. Late 1700 – 1800 By the 17th century people living in towns and cities had a deep pit for burying waste in called a cess pit in their garden.

Why is John slang for toilet? ›

John Harington was born during the time in which Queen Elizabeth reigned. His mother was a member of the queen's chamber. Praised for his work as both a poet and an inventor, Harington created a written plan for a mechanism that would serve as a flushing toilet.

Why is a toilet called a John? ›

This was originally a maritime euphemism. This came from the fact that, classically, the toilet on a marine vessel was located at the front of the ship (the head). This was so that water from the sea that splashed up on the front of the boat would wash the waste away.

What is a bathroom called in Canada? ›

The washroom is a polite word for the bathroom.

"Washroom" is basically the Canadian version of "restroom."

What is a toilet called in Germany? ›

GERMAN WORDS FOR TOILET

Das WC (vay-tsay) is borrowed from English “water closet” (WC). A bit more on the slang side is das Klo (toilet or toilet bowl), short for das Klosett, which in turn is short for “water closet.” In modern German today, the most common word for restroom or toilet is die Toilette.

What country does not use toilet paper? ›

France, Portugal, Italy, Japan, Argentina, Venezuela, and Spain: Instead of toilet paper, people from these countries (most of them from Europe) usually have a bidet in their washrooms. A bidet like a toilet, but also includes a spout that streams water like a water fountain to rinse you clean.

Why is the toilet called a dunny? ›

Dunny can now be used for any toilet. The word comes from British dialect dunnekin meaning an 'earth closet, (outside) privy' from dung + ken 'house'. First recorded in the 1930s but dunnekin is attested in Australian sources from the 1840s.

What is dunny slang for? ›

Noun. dunny (plural dunnies) (UK dialect, derogatory euphemistic, obsolete) A dummy, an unintelligent person.

Is dunny a word? ›

Dunny definition

(Scottish and northern English, slang, dated) An outside toilet, or the passageway leading to it; (by extension) a passageway or cellar. (UK, dialect) Deaf; stupid.

What is toilet called in USA? ›

Most of us call it a “toilet”. It can also be slangily referred to as “the throne”, “a commode”, “potty”, “pot”, “John” or “Johnny”, in some situations, it's a “latrine”, or “restroom”, or “Ladies' or Mens' room”. There are many ways to say it. You won't hear “water closet” or “Loo” used much in the US.

What is the bathroom called in the military? ›

Latrine. Latrine is a term common in the US Military, specifically for the Army and Air Force for any point of entry facility where human waste is disposed of, which a civilian might call a bathroom or toilet, regardless of how modern or primitive it is.

What do you call an Indian toilet? ›

Squat toilets are common in many Asian countries, including China and India. They are also widespread in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Iran.

Is toilet British or American? ›

British vs American English American vs British English
toilet!toilet (but the loo not the room)
trashrubbis
trashcandustbin
trolley cartram
trucklorry
97 more rows

Why is John slang for toilet? ›

John Harington was born during the time in which Queen Elizabeth reigned. His mother was a member of the queen's chamber. Praised for his work as both a poet and an inventor, Harington created a written plan for a mechanism that would serve as a flushing toilet.

Why do the British call a toilet a loo? ›

The word comes from nautical terminology, loo being an old-fashioned word for lee. The standard methinks it comes from the nautical pronunciation (in British English) of leeward is looward. Early ships were not fitted with toilets but the crew would urinate over the side of the vessel.

Is toilet British or American? ›

British vs American English American vs British English
toilet!toilet (but the loo not the room)
trashrubbis
trashcandustbin
trolley cartram
trucklorry
97 more rows

Who named the toilet? ›

Thomas Crapper (baptised 28 September 1836; died 27 January 1910) was an English plumber and businessman.

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