Guest Post: What Do People Around The English-Speaking World Call The Bathroom?
Often a source of embarrassment, around the world the bathroom goes by many different names. While the word “bathroom” is universally understood in English speaking countries, there are numerous unique regional terms used to call “the bathroom” the bathroom.
Because many English-speaking countries were originally British colonies, many of the names for the bathroom are the same in the US, Canada, Australia, and of course Great Britain. Countries that have adopted English as a second language, however – such as Russia – often use terminology from the United States exclusively.
Most interesting of all is that names used to describe the bathroom in one country have never caught on in others. Isn’t dialectology fun?
Aside from the word bathroom, the word “toilet” is perhaps the most commonly used name in English speaking countries. Traditionally, in British English a “bathroom” is a room containing a bathtub or shower; so bathroom is used in a house, but restroom in a business. In most areas of the United Kingdom common names include:
- terlit (which is the British spelling and pronunciation of toilet)
- public convince
- comfort room
- the fanny
- the “water closet” or “W.C.”
- the “bagno,” “cesso,” or lavatory – or shortened to lavvy or most often just loo
- “bog loo” or sometimes just “bog” can be used as well
In the U.K. “Gents” and “Jakes” are often used to identify a men’s bathroom. Names from the U.K. that have caught on in other countries, including the United States are loo and privy.
In the United States, the most common names include:
- washroom or wash room, and sometimes pronounced as “warsh room”
- Lesser used names including “lavatory,” “john,” “can,” and “powder room.”
- Names with a more humorous nature, and often used by and for children, include “little girls” and “little boys” room, “Daddy’s reading room,” “the throne room” and “potty.”
- Other uses in certain vernaculars that have caught on in common language are “latrine” from the military, and “head” from the navy and boating terminology.
- Of course, restroom, only this often implies a commercial or public bathroom with a double vanity, multiple toilets, etc.
In Canada, while bathroom and other names used in the U.S. are the most common, “Louvre” and “Salle de bain” from the French Canadian are also frequently used. Canada also has perhaps the most unique name for a bathroom of any English speaking country, using the apropos term of the “clean up.”
Australians also commonly use toilet or bathroom, as well as many of the other common British names, with lavatory often being shortened to just “lav.” Seemingly unique to Australia are “toot” and “dunny,” although these names are most commonly used by people living in the bush, or rural areas.
Whatever you call it, a bathroom still serves the same purpose. Just be aware of the local nicknames when traveling. Otherwise, you might hop around like an idiot looking for a “powder room” because no one knows what you’re talking about!
Miguel Salcido is a fifth-level ninja when it comes to the modern restroom because of his work with PremiereVanities.com, a website offering stylish vanities made from a variety of materials.