What are Some Alternative Words for Toilet and Where do they Come From? (2023)

Posted by Ollie Lyon on Thursday 30th May 2019, updated on Wednesday 2nd February 2022

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!

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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.


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.


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’.


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.

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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.


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.


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.


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)


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) Other words for 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…


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)


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.


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) 20 Alternative Words For The Toilet! - EnglishExpert.online

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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What is the alternative name for a toilet? ›

Water Closet (WC)

Where does the word toilet come from? ›

The word toilet is actually derived from the French word “toilette”, which directly translates to “dressing room” – a little more glamorous than today's meaning. However, from the word Toilette, you can actually take the word 'toile', which translates to 'cloth' – a quick French lesson for you!

What do British call a toilet? ›

A: The origin of “loo,” the informal British word for a toilet or lavatory, is a mystery, though you can find a number of questionable stories about its origins online, including the common belief that the usage comes from “gardyloo.”

What is the most polite word for toilet? ›

'Lavatory' is a good option for people looking for a very formal word to use in very formal occasions​.

What do plumbers call a toilet? ›

Because it had water, it became known as the water closet. Somehow the name stuck, and plumbers continue to refer to a toilet as a water closet. That's what the “WC” imprinted on most toilets stands for.

What was the first toilet called? ›

1857: The first American patent for a toilet, the 'plunger closet', was granted. 1858: The first flush toilets on the European continent may have been installed in Christiania (now Oslo), Norway. The toilets were probably imported from Britain, as they were referred to by the English term “water closets”.

What did they call toilets in the olden days? ›

The wrong end of the stick! The Romans came to the UK about 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.

What are Indian toilets called? ›

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

What is the slang word for bathroom? ›

bog (slang) I'm reading it on the bog. bogger (Australian, slang) brasco (Australian, slang) privy.

What is toilet in Italy? ›

ItalianEnglish Translation
toilettetoilet (bathroom)
WCwater closet (bathroom)
dov'è…?where is…?
guastobroken / out of order
8 more rows
May 13, 2022

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). They are usually used in a standing position.

Why is a toilet called a John? ›

The name “John” was later derived from “Jake” and “Jack.” Secondly but most notable amongst historians, John was the name of the first man credited with inventing the first flushing toilet. John Harington was born during the time in which Queen Elizabeth reigned. His mother was a member of the queen's chamber.

What is a funny word for plumber? ›

Plumbers have lots of nicknames. Pipey is one you hear often. Mario is occasionally thrown about by other tradies. Super Mario, if you're any good with a spanner.

What is the sink in the toilet called? ›

The bidet is designed to promote personal hygiene and is used after defecation, and before and after sexual intercourse. It can also be used to wash feet, with or without filling it up with water. In several European countries, a bidet is now required by law to be present in every bathroom containing a toilet bowl.

What is the architectural term for toilet? ›

The term lavatory is sometimes used synonymously: Toilet. WC (although this more correctly refers to the water closet sanitaryware itself)

What is higher than normal toilet? ›

Comfort height toilets vary in height. By and large, the seat tends to stand between 17 and 19 inches from the ground (43cm to 48cm). In contrast, a standard traditional height toilet stands at around 15 inches (38cm).

What is a modern toilet? ›

Modern toilets often have adjustable, heated seats, as well as motion-activated seats. They also feature built-in bidets that provide a stream of water to cleanse the backside after using the toilet. Bidet seats offer modern luxury.

What did humans use before toilet? ›

Romans used what is called a “Tersorium” – a sea sponge stuck on the end of a stick that was kept in either a bucket of salt water or vinegar. The general population used a communal latrine in Roman times, which consisted of several holes cut in a slab of marble. Picture the hole you sit on in an outhouse.

What did they call toilets in the 1700s? ›

1740-60. At home, matters were a little more comfortable. Wealthier households might have an earth closet, a kind of dry toilet which ensured that waste was buried in soil, and virtually every dwelling had at least one chamber pot or a bourdaloue, which would be emptied into a cesspit (by a servant, if you were lucky).

What is the oldest toilet? ›

The 2,400-year-old toilet box and pipe were discovered at an archaeological site in the Chinese city of Xi'an. The manual toilet was discovered in the ruins of a palace in Yueyang, which researchers believe may date back to the Warring States period (424 BC) and into the Qin Dynasty (221 BC to 206 BC).

What is a toilet called in a castle? ›

In the medieval period luxury castles were built with indoor toilets known as 'garderobes', and the waste dropped into a pit below.

What did pirates call toilets? ›

The use of the term "head" to refer to a ship's toilet dates to at least as early as 1708, when Woodes Rogers (English privateer and Governor of the Bahamas) used the word in his book, A Cruising Voyage Around the World.

What did Romans call toilets? ›

The word “latrine,” or latrina in Latin, was used to describe a private toilet in someone's home, usually constructed over a cesspit. Public toilets were called foricae. They were often attached to public baths, whose water was used to flush down the filth.

What is a Chinese toilet? ›

Chinese toilets are normally squat style, which admittedly take some getting used to. However, comfort yourself in the knowledge that using a squat toilet means you don't touch anything and you don't have to cover the toilet seat with paper before you can sit down.

What is the American word for public toilet? ›

Public toilets are known by many names in different varieties of English. In American English, "restroom" commonly denotes a facility featuring toilets and sinks designed for use by the public, but "restroom" and "bathroom" are often used interchangeably for any room with a toilet (both in public and in private homes).

What is ketchup called in Australia? ›

That being said, let's start with something most of us will probably have sitting in the fridge or pantry: ketchup. Ketchup is underrated. We call it tomato sauce in Australia. Or just “sauce”.

What is a European toilet? ›

European toilets use less water (and may have the "dual-flush" option that lets users choose a lighter flush for liquid waste), and there's less splashback and less noise involved.

What did Native Americans use for toilets? ›

American Indians generally did their “business” in the most convenient place not far from their tipis. Indians dug latrines away from the tipis and fresh water. During the most brutal weather, these latrines would be placed close by. Human waste froze in the winter and didn't smell nearly as much as in the summer.

What is a Western toilet called? ›

Sitting toilets are often referred to as "western-style toilets". Sitting toilets are more convenient than squat toilets for people with disabilities and the elderly.

What is a Mexican bathroom called? ›

If you'd like to say “the bathroom” in Spanish, you would generally say “el baño” or, perhaps less often, “el servicio.” Of course, it all depends on the country in which you find yourself. A few of the many synonyms include: el wáter, el retrete, la letrina, el urinario, el lavavo, and more.

What is a Japanese bathroom? ›

Unlike modern bathrooms seen across the world, in a Japanese bathing area, the shower is outside the tub which is in line with traditional Japanese bathing culture. One washes their body outside the tub and then soaks in the tub to relax.

What is a Japanese public bathroom called? ›

There are many different layouts for a Japanese sentō or public bath. Most traditional sentō, however, are very similar to the layout shown on the right. The entrance from the outside looks somewhat similar to a temple, with a Japanese curtain (暖簾, noren) across the entrance.

What is the 70s slang for toilet? ›

KYBO. According to The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, this name for an outdoor toilet is an acronym from the '70s for Keep Your Bowels in Order.

What is the British slang for toilet paper? ›

Bog roll, naturally, is an idiom for toilet paper. This will come in especially handy if you find yourself in a dire situation in the loo.

What is a fancy word for using the bathroom? ›

On this page you'll find 5 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to go to the bathroom, such as: defecation, discharge, elimination, and excretion.

What did the Romans do for toilets? ›

Roman public latrines looked much like their Greek predecessors: rooms lined with stone or wooden bench seats positioned over a sewer. The toilet holes are round on top of the bench, and a narrower slit extends forward and down over the edge in a keyhole shape.

What is a Swedish toilet? ›

Public toilets in Sweden are self-cleaning (rotating toilet seats) or cleaned manually on a regular basis, especially toilets in malls and sit-down restaurants, so you don't have to worry about a dirty situation when you go to do your business. Sweden doesn't have many squat toilets either.

Is there a toilet for both genders? ›

Unisex public toilets can be used by people of any sex or gender identity.

What were toilets called in the 1600s? ›

Privies, consisting of rows of seats over an earth closet or a cesspit, were commonly found in the countryside, and sometimes in urban private homes.

What were toilets called in the 1800s? ›

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.

Why were toilets called Jakes? ›

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 bathroom with just a toilet called? ›

To builders nowadays, a water closet refers to a room with just a toilet, although some companies, such as Richmond American Homes, will include water closets in the same category as a powder room or a half bath—a room with a toilet plus a sink.

What is another term used for toilet in engineering? ›

The term lavatory is sometimes used synonymously: Toilet. WC (although this more correctly refers to the water closet sanitaryware itself)

What do you call a bathroom with toilet? ›

Full Bathroom

Full bathrooms have a toilet, sink, shower, and bathtub/shower combination or a separate bathtub and shower.

What is the general name for toilet and bathroom? ›

These are usually called "fixtures." Those specific to handling water are "plumbing fixtures." Those specific to the bathroom are "bathroom fixtures." Those specific to handling bodily wastes (toilets and urinals) are known as "sanitary fixtures."

What do you call a toilet without flush? ›

A dry toilet (or non-flush toilet, no flush toilet or toilet without a flush) is a toilet which, unlike a flush toilet, does not use flush water. Dry toilets do not use water to move excreta along or block odors. They do not produce sewage, and are not connected to a sewer system or septic tank.

What are toilets without plumbing called? ›

A composting toilet is the original toilet without plumbing. Designed to compost waste in a hygienic and environmentally-friendly fashion, these composting toilet systems are popular in both homes and outbuildings. They are good for the environment and they are also known as "dry toilets”.

What is a downstairs toilet called? ›

Downstairs toilets, also referred to as Cloakrooms, are a great addition to any home.

What are the two types of toilets? ›

There are generally 2 types of toilet bowl types – round and elongated. According to popular opinion, round toilets are better for smaller bathrooms, while elongated toilets are more comfortable to use.

What is a fancy word for bathroom? ›

synonyms for bathroom

On this page you'll find 19 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to bathroom, such as: lavatory, restroom, powder room, toilet, washroom, and water closet.

What do Canadians call the restroom? ›

Washroom: a polite word for bathroom. The Canadian version of “restroom.”

What is a women's toilet called? ›

A female urinal is a urinal designed for the female anatomy to allow for ease of use by women and girls. Different models enable urination in standing, semi-squatting, or squatting postures, but usually without direct bodily contact with the toilet.

What is Western toilet called? ›

Sitting toilets are often referred to as "western-style toilets". Sitting toilets are more convenient than squat toilets for people with disabilities and the elderly.


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