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jonno's avatar

Why do Americans call toilets bathrooms?

Asked by jonno (1057 points ) December 26th, 2007

Where did this usage come from?

By “toilet” I mean the room that has a toilet, not the toilet itself.

Calling the toilet a bathroom only makes sense when the toilet is actually in the bathroom – which is the case in some homes, but in the majority of homes I have visited, the toilet is in a seperate room to the bathroom.

And what about public toilets – they’re definitely not bathrooms?

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10 Answers

Xpress411's avatar

What do you(that is the non-American questioner) call rooms with toilets in them? We also you the terms “Restroom” and “Washroom.” We Americans use to have our toilets in the outhouse, and our bathtubs in the bathroom. When they combined the two, we all got confused and just started using bathroom for any room your likely to make a pee.

lifeflame's avatar

Perhaps they used “bathroom” and “restroom” as a sort of euphenism—sounds more polite…?

samkusnetz's avatar

in the majority of american homes, the room which has the bath in it also has a toilet in it. the definition of a full bathroom is, in fact, a room with a bath (or shower), a sink, and a toilet. any room with fewer than all three of those implements is considered a half-bathroom. the bathrooms you’ve seen with no bath in them are derivatives of the full bathroom, and so though the name makes no sense, you can see how it got there.

ccatron's avatar

“toilet” is much too grotesque and in effect, “too much information”. The word “toilet” brings images of the actual toilet and what goes into it. If someone says they are going to the bathroom or restroom, then you have no idea what they might do there. They might just need to blow their nose or wash their hands.

jonno's avatar

I see, so it’s basically just a euphemism – like the word “lavatory” but less posh (now that I think about it, what’s with aeroplanes calling their toilets lavatories?)

I think it’s interesting that apparently in the majority of American homes the toilet and bathroom are combined. This probably influences calling the toiilet a bathroom as well. (Though if you ask me, I reckon it’s much better and more logical having the toilet and bathroom seperate!)

“What do you(that is the non-American questioner) call rooms with toilets in them?”

We call the room the toilet too, which means that when we say the word toilet in a sentence it could refer to the toilet itself or it could be referring the whole room (so if you hear that someone got stuck in a toilet, it’s probably not what you think!)

Thanks guys for your answers!

gcross's avatar

In most American homes, the bathtubs/showers are combined with the toilet and sink because the average small house “bathroom” is usually no larger than 5 feet by 7 feet = roughly 1–2/3 meters by 2–1/3 meters. This puts the 5 foot bathtub width-wise at the end, with the toilet beside it on one length-wise wall, and the sink beside that. The door, then, is usually lined up with the open floor space, leaving just enough depth for the counter/cabinet surrounding the sink (where most of the storage is found) and the depth of the toilet. This is the standard size for a house of less than 2,000 square feet (approx. 667 meters), which is the standard size for the average middle- to low-income home.

Most Americans refer to the “lavatory” in a house as a bathroom, even if it has a shower instead of, or none. Bathrooms that contain only a sink and toilet, no bathtub and no shower, are described as half-baths. Most public lavatories are referred to as restrooms, or comfort stations or men’s rooms or ladies’ rooms. Lavatories on ships are generally referred to as the head. Euphemisms include “going down the hall,” “visiting the litter box,” and “had a nature call.”

Trance24's avatar

I suppose its because most American’s have their toilets in the bathroom. There for we just say we are going to the bathroom, or the restroom.

zaid's avatar

Actually, “lavatory”, “washroom”, and “bathroom” are all have the same root.

emilyrose's avatar

i had a problem when traveling in central america and asking for the bano (sorry cant make it actually have the tilde or whatever its called). i was always asking for a place to pee, but they often thought i wanted to bathe myself.

jvgr's avatar

Toilet is the technically correct term for the plumbing unit with the tank that we flush.
Lavatory is the technically correct term for the “bathroom sink”
Sink is the technically correct term for the large appliance that we wash clothes or dishes in.

Americans (like the British) have difficulty in describing the names of places where toilets and lavatories co-exist, so there is: bathroom (lav, toilet, bath/shower), 1/2 bath (aka Powder Room): toilet, lav both used primarily in house terminology, then there are the public places: washroom, restroom, lavatory…

Now you know one of the reasons that English is among the most difficult languages to learn.

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