A question about toilets

I was at a cathedral recently, singing a hymn about our “toilings”, and i was wondering . . . .

– what is the origin of the word “toilet” and is it related to “toil”

Of course, I was also thinking about God, and church, and worship, and the content of the hymn. You know that!


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Did you know there’s an online etymology dictionary? Me neither. It’s at http://www.etymonline.com. Here’s the entry for toilet:
    “1540, “cover or bag for clothes,” from M.Fr. toilette “a cloth, bag for clothes,” dim. of toile “cloth, net” (see toil (2)). Sense evolution is to “act or process of dressing” (1681); then “a dressing room” (1819), especially one with a lavatory attached; then “lavatory or porcelain plumbing fixture” (1895), an Amer.Eng. euphemistic use. Toilet paper is attested from 1884. Toilet training is recorded from 1940.”
    Apparently has something to do with the french word for cloth.

  • I’ll tell you something – I feel funny in USA when i use the toilets with a “American Standard” branding on them. Whats up with that? Why did the Americans name a Bible translation after their toilets?

  • We would never be so insensitive as to name a Bible translation after a toilet! We named our toilets after a Bible translation! 😉

  • Besides the American Standard toilet, we have here in the US a brand of toilet seat with its brand name printed on it: CHURCH. I’ve got three in my house, but no American Standards. Aussie toities all the way, baby! 🙂

  • Also, in Victorian times one used to refer to “a lady’s toilet” or “a gentleman’s toilet.” This phrase had nothing to do with toilets! A toilet was a collection of grooming products: lotions, potions, powders, etc. Doing all that good grooming could definitely be considered “toil,” I’m thinking…

  • On the underside of my toilet seat is the word Church. Apparently a company named Church makes toilet seats. I was so amused that I took a picture of my toilet seat and posted it one day. See…it really does all fit together.

  • Of all the nameslike toilet, restroom, johns, powder room,loo, the little room, the outhouse; ladies ,gentlemen, men and women, I believe lavatory is still preferred over toilet. Toilet is what happens inside a lavatory. Next preferred is women and men, the reason being that not all of them are necessarily ladies or gents.

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