Plumber Sandy Blog

When Your Plumber Sandy was writing the history of the toilet, we came across several different names for the toilet, only some of which had to do with people who helped develop the toilet. This got us to thinking...what do the other names for the toilet come from? Where does the word ‘toilet’ come from? This article has several different synonyms for toilet, from different places around the world. We hope you enjoy this article as much as we enjoyed writing it!


We thought we’d start with the word most often used here in Sandy. Toilet. This word originally comes from the french ‘toilette.’ This is kind of funny, because a toilette is not a toilet or even a room it is kept in. A toilette was first a room where one got ready for the day or for bed. It was more of a dressing room than a bathroom, however. The word toilette comes from the word ‘toile,’ which is a cloth. Because a cloth was used in washing ones hair, and eventually began to separate the parts of getting ready, this word evolved to toilette for the room one got ready in.

Latrines & Lavatories

If you are a part of the the military or army, you are probably very familiar with the term ‘latrine.’ Both the word latrine and the word lavatory actually come from the same base word. They come from the word ‘lavare.’’ Lavare means ‘to wash,’ although originally it was the object one washed in and not the washing itself. For example, someone might have called their bath or washbasin lavare. This term evolved into two separate words, ‘lavatrina’ and ‘lavatorium.’ The Lavatrina evolved through the french influence into ‘latrine.’ Lavatorium, meaning ‘place to wash’, evolved into ‘lavatory.’


Unlike the other armed forces, the marines and those who use ships often call a bathroom or toilet the ‘head.’ This term was more straightforward, as on a ship the bathroom was usually at the head or bow of the ship. For those of us that don’t sail, a ‘head’ on a sailing ship was the part at the very front that lead the way anywhere the boat went. The toilet was usually located at the ‘head’ of the ship because in a sailing ship the water splashes up over that area of the ship and would wash away any bodily waste in the area. The wind also travelled over this area and took away most of the smell as it went.


Though it is an older word, today we in the United States sometimes use it to refer to an outhouse. The word originally came from England and Northern Scotland, and came from the word ‘private.’ Considering that in most cultures time on the toilet is considered a private affair, this term makes a great deal of sense. Especially since in recent years the jokes has been going around about people going to the bathroom to get time separate from the rest of the family.

Restroom or Retiring Room
These two terms, though similar and meaning basically the same thing, developed in North America and Britain separately. In the United States the term ‘restroom’ evolved around the 20th century from the idea that one could rest and refresh in the bathroom. For example, when a woman goes to ‘powder her nose’ or how some bathrooms have small couches or chairs for people to sit on when waiting on someone else in the bathroom. Although we are not certain when the phrase ‘retiring room’ came about, the reason it developed seems to be about the same.

John & Crapper

These two terms both come from people who had a big influence on the toilet. It is thought that the term “John” in reference to the toilet refers to Sir John Herrington, who invented the first flushing toilet. Ironically Sir John did not name the toilet John, he named it “AJAX” after the street-word used for toilets at that time: ‘jakes.’

Calling a toilet a ‘crapper’ is considered a rather vulgar way to refer to the toilet, but does not come from gross origins. The term ‘crapper’ comes from Thomas Crappers’ name. Mr. Crapper owned the first showroom for bathroom plumbing, and helped to expand the amount of people who owned a toilet. He also patented a few small pieces of plumbing for the bathroom.


The word bog is perhaps one of the more literal words for toilet, as it refers directly to the act of using the toilet. “Bog” is thought to have come about around 1789, and comes from the term ‘boghouse.’  Boghouse came from British slang, which refers to pooping. Makes one wonder why the term ‘bog’ seems more acceptable than ‘crapper’....


A ‘dunny’ is an australian outhouse or outside toilet. The word dunny originally came from the British word ‘dunnekin’, which means dung-house. A dunny usually has, or had, a pan underneath it that needed to be emptied every so often. The person who was in charge of this smelly job was called a ‘dunnyman.’


With all the terms for the toilet that seem to have British origin, we can’t forget the slang word ‘loo.’ Although the word ‘loo’ comes from Britain, it originally came from the french phrase ‘guardez l’eau.’ Guardez l’eau basically means to ‘guard water’ or watch for water.  Originally people would shout “Guardez l’eau!” whenever they were tossing a chamberpots contents out of an open window to warn pedestrians below.

There are, of course, many other words people use to refer to the toilet. These are just the ones we’ve seen and heard most commonly here in Sandy. We hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Whether you call it a toilet, an AJAX, a Jakes, a loo, or even a dunny, Your Plumber Sandy can help install it in your home or business.