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NerdyKeith's avatar

Americans, why do many of you refer to toilets / bathrooms as a "restroom”?

Asked by NerdyKeith (5451points) March 22nd, 2016

We in Ireland call them “the toilets”, as they are rooms for going to the toilet. Sometimes we do call them “bathrooms”, which arguably doesn’t always make sense as public toilet facilities tend to not have a bath in them. The bathroom reference is more closely relevant to private bathrooms in our homes.

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34 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Because it is the polite way to say it here. “Toilet” has a crude tone in certain context. It’s not offensive to say it that way though, just a little brash.

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

I have 3 kids. It’s the only place I can get some rest.

gorillapaws's avatar

“I’m going to the toilet” sounds too close to “I’m going to take a dump” (to my ear at least). It’s crass. Maybe you just need to wash your hands before eating? “Restroom” keeps your activities more ambiguous and therefore more polite.

ucme's avatar

Because they talk & spell funny ;-}
Talking of funny, as in peculiar, a rest room would be more suitable for a lounge surely.

ibstubro's avatar

Because when you’re a kid growing up it’s about the only place you’re assured of some privacy. “Breakroom” was already taken, so we’ll have a little rest, instead.

Besides, the toilet isn’t the only thing in there? “I’m going to the toilet” is a little crude, and TMI. And I haven’t had a bath in years.
BRB. I’m going to the shower restroom.

Seek's avatar

It’s a holdover from Victorian times, when referring to any bodily function was considered perverse.

Restroom, powder room, littlest room, etc. are all euphemisms for the same thing.

thorninmud's avatar

Even the word “toilet” was originally a dodge for avoiding the ugly reality of bodily functions. It’s derived from the French (giving it a veneer of class) term for washing up.

Strauss's avatar

I think @Seek has it correct. Even “water closet” was lacking decorum.

ucme's avatar


jca's avatar

I’ll say “restroom” or “bathroom.”

Toilet sounds crude to most in the US, I’d guess.

Someone in my family is a Brit and he calls it “the smallest room.”

cookieman's avatar

I often say, “I’m off to visit the porcelain.”

I do use “restroom” as well. I also like the British “loo”.

I don’t know, I’m all for keeping it real and the gritty reality of life, but I find euphemisms and polite phrases fun and functional. There’s enough ugly in the world, why not strive for some lightness where we can?

marinelife's avatar

Private bathrooms in homes I say “bathroom”. Public facilities I call “restrooms”.

zenvelo's avatar

Ladies rooms in many places actually have a place to sit for a moment, like a couch.

Here2_4's avatar

Very fancy ladies rooms have places to sit, used to have ashtrays, and women will sometimes take a break… from a loud party or dinner, freshen makeup, nurse babies, take off the high heels and massage the tootsies, many things are done in there. Mostly it goes with the ladies. With high heels, babies, small children, there are so many reasons to take a bit if a break. There are many reasons to break from activities a bit and rest.
See if you might care to rest here

kritiper's avatar

I can only add that the term originated in approx. 1899.

DominicY's avatar

I wish we could just say “toilet” as they do in the UK, but I grew up with “bathroom” and “restroom”, never really understanding where the latter came from (as others have said, it mostly refers to public bathrooms), although I knew they were both euphemisms.

For most men’s rooms, you want to do anything but rest in there.

kritiper's avatar

I think @Here2_4 nailed it.

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

It’s a bit of euphemism, but also a bit of literalism. Technically, the word “restroom” refers to a public facility in American English. But public toilets don’t contains bath tubs (so they are hardly bath-rooms), whereas the fancier facilities sometimes do contain couches (especially women’s restrooms). The existence of couches in women’s restrooms, by the way, is another bit of Victorianism. In the beginning, they were usually fainting couches (for women prone to “the vapours”).

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Speaking of toilet language why do we “take” a piss, dump etc. Don’t we “leave” a piss or leave a dump?

NerdyKeith's avatar

Although I do love the expression “the little boys room”. It’s funny.

Strauss's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me I think it’s an idiom similar to “take a bath” or “take a shower”. I’ve also heard (although less often) “take a shave” or “take a haircut”.

As far as “to take a dump” I’d much rather leave it than take it!

DominicY's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me In Britain they say “have a shit” or something like that, and to Americans it sounds very weird.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

@NerdyKeith I think you’ll find that nearly every American refers to the “restroom” in a public place and the “bathroom” in a home. We simply don’t like the word “toilet.” I’ll say that I had to hire a plumber because my toilet overflowed, but I’ll never tell you that I need to use the toilet.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I think the big distinction is that restroom does not reveal what you will be doing. You could excuse yourself for any number of reasons to go to the bathroom. Going to the toilet only means one of two things.

NerdyKeith's avatar

Ah thank you everyone for your answers. I think I understand a lot better why you call toilet facilities a restroom.

I suppose the term toilet can be quite crude

ibstubro's avatar

America is still very prudish about sex, sexual organs, and bodily functions, and toilet is too evocative of what happens in the restroom.

Witness that this was supposedly meant to be taken at face value.

josie's avatar

Because if you say “the head” lot’s of folks think it’s weird, or don’t know what you are talking about.

Cupcake's avatar

I’ve got toddlers, so we “go potty” quite a bit in our house.

gondwanalon's avatar

Lately I’ve heard it called “Mecca”.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I’m Canadian, and grew up using “bathroom” for the room in our house that contained both a bath and a toilet. For public toilets, we usually use “washroom” rather than “rest room”, though the latter is recognized. The toilet is a bit of porcelain furniture in the washroom or bathroom, not the room itself. However, we do say “la toilette/les toilettes” when asking for the room in French.

ibstubro's avatar

I actually probably say potty more than anything.
It’s universally understood and somewhat disarming/charming from a 50+ yo man.

Strauss's avatar

@josie “The head” was originally a nautical term. I days of sailing ships, if a crew member had to “leak” he would go to the “head” of the ship, since the wind was coming from the rear. That way he knew which way the wind would splash his stream. This term evolved to indicate the facility used on board ships, and was generalized by sailors on land. Being a sailor or Navy term, it was also passed on to the Marines.

Adagio's avatar

I’m used to and completely comfortable with using the word “toilet”. Sometimes I might say “loo” but 9 times out of 10 it is “toilet”. I detest the word lavatory, and if anyone says “the little girl’s room” I will scream! For the most part, in NZ public toilets are referred to as “public toilets”, although someone might use the term “restroom”.

BellaB's avatar

If I’m in a pub/restaurant here, I ask where the washroom was. That’s one way you can tell I’m a Canajun.

In my immediate circle of friends, we refer to it as going around the corner. It has history in a former co-worker/friend who used it as code to let us know that she needed to fart. She was on that cabbage diet for far too long.

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