Weekly Wednesday Word: Toilet

Welcome to ‘Weekly Wednesday Word’!Ever wonder where certain words come from? Well I do, quite often (probably too often). As a writer I find a deeper knowledge of linguistics and etymology to be not only useful but downright enriching.

This weeks word is:Toilet

Toilets aren’t the most pleasant topic ever, but they are one of the most useful advents in technology and public health. Before flushing toilets and sewer systems became a commonality, diseases like cholera were rampant. This just reminds us that we should be thankful for the small ordinary things in life!

According to the  online etymology dictionary the word toilet actually originates from middle French. It’s earliest usage, both in French and English, is a cover or bag for clothes. ‘toilette’ being the middle French, ‘toile’ referring to cloth, ‘toilette’ being a diminutive of the word. This ended up being associated with getting dressed, the ‘toil’ being the cloth that covered the dressing table. Then you had dressing rooms, which ended up having somewhere to go to the bathroom. Finally around 1895 it became commonly used as a word for the bathroom in America.

The use of the word combo ‘toilet paper’ however dates to 1884, and sounds much better than the middle English, arse-wisp.

Rev. Walter W. Skeat in his ‘An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language’ asserts simply that ‘toilet’ or ‘toilette’, is a a small cloth for a dressing table.

Fun Facts:

Toilets used to be called ‘chamber pots’, which as you may know were simply pots that went in ones chamber. These were often emptied right out the window and into the street below. Can you imagine the smell?

In many Asian countries ‘squatting toilets’ are the norm. Instead of sitting all comfortable you squat. Recent research has shown that despite being slightly uncomfortable (or totally uncomfortable if you’re from somewhere like America), it’s actually more natural and better for your health to squat.

Virginia City Nevada host an annual outhouse race, where outhouses are dressed up in outlandish designs and themes and pushed through the streets.

Here’s a pretty cool Wikipedia page devoted to everything you ever wanted to know about toilets.


Question: Have you ever used a toilet in another country? Was it odd?


2 thoughts on “Weekly Wednesday Word: Toilet

  1. I have used toilets in India. They’re super unsanitary so you have to be really careful not to touch anything at all. And ideally don’t use public toilets if you can. Try to go at your relatives house if you value your life. I’m not even joking.

    Liked by 1 person

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