Is the label "WC" unusual for "restrooms"?

  • Misled Youth

    its not obsolete in kuwait.. i find it here in every public restroom.. it might be in the area that you live i guess..

    thnx for telling me the full form.. it was information for me..

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    The term originated in Britain, where the word closet has meant a small room for hundreds of years, but has become more or less obsolete there in everyday use. Nevertheless, most people know what it means and some may use it occasionally. However it is still used in the manufacturing and architectural industries as a technical term to describe a flushing toilet apparatus or the room itself (on architectural plans toilets are marked "WC" not least because it is a compact notation).

    I would surmise that it has fallen out of use because of the delicate nature of such subjects, where one euphemism replaces another over time. When I was very young the toilet was most often called the "lavatory" ("lav" or "lavvy" in slang) but that rapidly gave way to "toilet" which I would say is the predominant term today.


    Senior Member
    English England
    WC is seen in quite a few countries around the world! Other words (usually spoken) would be loo, bathroom (AE) but oddly enough I've even seen the term 'powder room' on a sign indicating the way to the erm toilet.


    Senior Member
    UK English (& rusty French…)
    To add to Mole's excellent definition, Water Closets were very small ‘rooms’ placed outside and away from the main living accommodation, for hygienic reasons. My first house in London had one - bloody cold in the winter (you didn't want to linger in there!) and it was weird having to take an umbrella with you when it rained :eek:. I guess they originally had a bucket of water at hand (hence the “water” part of the word > just guessing).
    Since the Brits were masters at engineering and had a vast empire, the overhead water-flushing system and the concept of the lavatory spread around the world: you ended up with WC everywhere.

    “Bathroom”, 3pebbles, is used in ‘gentile’ establishment in the UK. It wouldn’t be proper to ask “where the toilet” if you were at the Ritz! I’ve also seen “powder room” in some places. I guess it refers to the place women touch up their make up, which happens to be in the Ladies’ loo. I say! :rolleyes:


    Senior Member
    USA English
    "water closet" is very, very old in the U.S. and is long gone from general use, but interestingly, WC seems to be in current use in Germany, where the German pronunciation of the letters is used.

    Obviously, we haven't lost the need for euphemisms to describe the place where we all perform our necessary bodily functions.

    "Restroom" is a popular term in the U.S. although people normally don't rest very much or very long (hopefully, in public facilities) in such places.

    The list of euphemisms is long and interesting and has changed over the years as the essential facilities have moved from outside to inside and the plumbing has improved, but that probably is for a different thread.


    Senior Member
    American English
    WC is not common in AmE where I live. In fact, at a three doctor clinic, each of their first names started with a 'W'. They had four doors; so on three they had WB, WS, WG. On the fourth door they had the initials, WC. It was somewhat of a chuckle that they used their initials and the British WC in their office to show where everyone and everything was.

    Outside of this instance, I have never seen a bathroom or water closet called a WC.


    Senior Member
    United States, English
    I have noticed that here in Mexico a common translation for "baño (bathroom)" is the abreviation you folks mentioned, WC. Knowing Spanish I didn't need the translation, but if I had seen a sign with just "WC" on it I would not have known what it meant.

    I would say "Restroom" is the most popular word in AmE followed by "bathroom". I think "bathroom" is not used by some people because "to go to the bathroom" is a euphemistic way of saying "pee" or "poop", as in the act itself and not just going to the room designated for such a purpose. For instance, you will hear "The dog went to the bathroom on the sidewalk" said by people who don't like to say "piss" or "shit".


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Please keep this thread to the specific point raised in the first post.
    There are many other threads where the general use of restroom, washroom, toilet, bathroom is discussed. Look up any of these in the WR dictionary to find relevant threads.

    Posts that do not relate to the specific topic of this thread will be deleted.


    Senior Member
    >I've never seen WC on any restroom door, only a man and a woman symbol, or the words spelled out.

    Mod. note: References to areas not in the English speaking world removed. Please read and respond to the
    question in post #1.


    Senior Member
    I learned the term WC when I was about 20 years old. My father explained that it stands for "water closet", but I still had to ask what that meant. It is almost unheard of in Arkansas except among the well-traveled or ecclectic folks.

    I have seen W.C. in other countries, including England, but not in the U.S. except in a restaurant pretending to be an English pub. The "W.C." on the door resembled the initial letters of an "illumined" manuscript.


    Senior Member
    English English
    Is it true that "WC" is an unusual lable for public restrooms (toilets) in English speaking world?
    I concur with previous BE-speakers that the use of WC as a label for public or private toilets has become virtually obsolete ~ I saw one the other day labelled WC and thought, "Ooh, that's unusual and old-fashioned!"
    I would, however, like to point out that the designation restrooms for public toilets is unusual. In fact I have never ever, to the best of my recollection, seen or heard them referred to as such in the UK: restroom is Pure AE.


    Senior Member
    English - American
    As Ewie and others have pointed out WC is rare in AE, and heard mostly among people with a high exposure to BE. The origin was to distinguish such a room (and/or the device) from one without a water flush. The transition between outhouses (with a pit beneath and having many euphemisms) and garderobes (a small room with a hole leading down to the outside of the castle - another euphemism, since it actually means dressing room) to rooms with a method of carrying away wastes, was by way of the earth closet where wastes decompose aerobically. When flush toilets were invented (not actually by Thomas Crapper, and whose name is not actually eponymous), these earth closets were replaced with water closets - WC.

    In an AE setting, I needed to label a very tiny light switch, and chose WC. I have never had anyone ask me what it meant, so my AE-speaking friends must understand it (or perhaps are reluctant to ask).


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Does anyone else pronounce ''WC'' as ''double-vay say''? I used to think it was French for a long time. :confused:
    I can only imagine this as an attempt at humor, to give an ordinary act (and an ordinary place) an appearance of sophistication. It would be similar to how many Americans, as a joke, pronounce the name of the discount department store Target as "tar-jay."