restroom, washroom, bathroom, toilet, loo, WC, lavatory

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JustKate

Senior Member
"In the toilet" isn't commonly used in AmE, at least not in most dialects, including the ones I'm most familiar with it. If I heard someone say "I'm in the toilet" I am familiar enough with the idiom that I would assume that he meant he was in the bathroom, but the picture it would automatically bring to my mind is someone literally in the toilet bowl. :) I know what the phrase means in some forms of English, but it's also a fact that it's not what it ordinarily means to me.

To use a slightly less silly example, say I had a dog named Fred, and my husband called out to me "Help! Fred's in the toilet!" I'd assume that meant that Fred was in the toilet bowl, not in the room that contains the toilet.

Edit: I've never heard that little alcove you mention called a "toilet room," HnB'ed, but then again, I don't know that I've ever heard of a special name for it.
 
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  • HnB'ed

    Member
    What I've got the greatest trouble figuring out is how can one say "I'm going to the toilet" while he or she actually sits on the toilet bowl? You cannot go to a place and be there at the same time, can you? I mean, not in the three dimensional world we belong, unless you can explain how this could work sense-wise in plain language. Also, wouldn't "I'm using the toilet" be a better way to say that you're sitting on the toilet? What do you think?
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    What I've got the greatest trouble figuring out is how can one say "I'm going to the toilet" while he or she actually sits on the toilet bowl? You cannot go to a place and be there at the same time, can you? I mean, not in the three dimensional world we belong, unless you can explain how this could work sense-wise in plain language. Also, wouldn't "I'm using the toilet" be a better way to say that you're sitting on the toilet? What do you think?
    You are absolutely right. However, Americans frequently say "going to the toilet" or even "going to the bathroom" to mean defecating, and sometimes urinating. Example: Mom, the dog went to the bathroom on the rug!
     

    HnB'ed

    Member
    Now I got it. It's an idiomatic expression like saying "I need to see a man about a dog," "I need to wash my hands" or " I need to spend a penny." Thank you for making it clear to me, Sparky Malarky.
     
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    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    Now I got it. It's an euphemistic idiom like saying "I need to tell a man about a dog," "I need to wash my hands" or "I'm going to spend a penny." Thank you for making it clear to me, Sparky Malarky.

    Exactly. Women would often say (especially in public) "I need to go powder my nose." This is why a room with only a toilet and a sink (not a tub or shower) is sometimes called a "powder room."
     

    HnB'ed

    Member
    I just looked up "go to the toilet" in NTC's AE Idioms Dictionary and here's what it says: "to use a toilet for defecating or urinating," and the example phrase given is "Excuse me, I have to go to the toilet." Now, I'm sure you'll recognize that in this example either "toilet room" or "toilet bowl" would work as a substitute for toilet, right? The only person that in actuality knows what of a room or a bowl he or she has iin mind is the person that utters the phrase, since it really makes no difference for the person(s) this.phrase is addressed to whether it's the toilet room or the toilet bowl that is being referred to (neither for the one that says it actually), the essential idea that this phrase conveys being in either cases...the same.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm afraid I don't understand your comment, HnB'ed.

    "Toilet" is a euphemism, just as much as "bathroom" or "restroom".
     

    HnB'ed

    Member
    Well, when one says "I have to go to the toilet," it makes no difference for the person(s) this phrase is addressed to whether it's a toilet bowl or a toilet room that one has in mind since the sense in either cases is the same: a need to go dispose of one's body wastes.
     
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    HnB'ed

    Member
    Then, let's take an example, if you don't mind. Say I'm American and you're British. We're both sitting in a cafe and you suddenly express the need to go to the restroom by saying "I have to go to the toilet." Now, who cares if you as a Briton picture the word "toilet" as the room or I , as an American, picture it as the bowl, since the essential idea of the phrase is conveyed in either cases, i. e., a need for privacy to dispose of one's body wastes (it can be for urination, defecation, vomiting or for whatever other imaginable things one can do in a toilet) who cares, as long as the overall sense of the phrase "go to the toilet" is understood, no mattter which definition of the word "toilet" one's have in mind. Now, if you'll excuse me, may I be allowed to go to the bathroom? I badly need to see a man about a dog...
     
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    HnB'ed

    Member
    My point is that, as far as the phrase "go to the toilet" is concerned, the essential idea of what is conveyed is understood by native speakers from both sides of the Atlantic, whether it's the "toilet room" sense or the "toilet bowl" sense that one has in mind.
     
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    JustKate

    Senior Member
    I think I understand what you're saying, HnB'ed, and while I partly agree, I don't agree entirely. There is, after all, more than one reason to need to get to that particular room, and there are, in addition, circumstances in which it's necessary to say why you're going there and circumstances in which it isn't. So whether the same "essential idea" is being conveyed depends on circumstances. What, after all, is the "essential idea"?

    What makes expressions such as "I need to go to the toilet" a bit tricky is that their meaning and appropriateness varies depending on the dialect of the person speaking (or listening) and the context in which they are stated. If in the local dialect "go to the toilet" just means "go the room that contains the toilet," then there's nothing wrong (as far as I know) with excusing oneself from a business lunch to "go to the toilet." But in contexts in which the phrase "go to the toilet" is a euphemism for "urinate or defecate," then a person should probably not use it when excusing himself from that business lunch. There nothing obscene or horrible about needing to pee, even during a business lunch, but it is generally inappropriate to discuss one's bodily elimination plans with one's business acquaintances. :)

    There are times when it is necessary, of course - e.g., "I'm feeling really queasy and I think I need to get to a bathroom/toilet/restroom right away!" - and certainly these things can be brought up in a casual way to people one has that sort of relationship with. But if one is, for example, at a business lunch, one does not usually announce why one is leaving the table, and it's considered impolite to speculate. And that's the danger of "I need to go to the toilet." In the wrong circumstances, it can seem like the person isn't just excusing himself to go to that particular room for whatever reason, but is instead telling all of us what he intends to do there.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    By the sound of it in AE "to go to the toilet" can have 2 potential meanings (but only one at all likely) - to be currently urinating or defecating (likely) or to approach the toilet bowl (unlikely - would only be used in a sentence like "he went to the toilet and lifted the lid to look inside").

    In BE there are 3 potential meanings: most likely - to go to the room where the toilet is situated. Next likely - to be currently urinating or defecating (possible, but perhaps unlikely from the simple fact that you don't normally announce this while you are mid-flow and because the first meaning is so common). Similarly it would be indelicate to announce that someone is in the middle of their necessities so in answer to "where is John?" you would reply "he has gone to the toilet" and probably not "he's going to the toilet" (although you could in a context, say, where a toddler is using his potty and you are commenting on this fact). Least likely - to approach the toilet bowl (just as in AE, and just as unlikely).
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    English - USA
    It all boils down to the fact that North Americans relate the word toilet to the specific plumbing fixture, not the room it is in.

    Since the term is too specific for us for whatever historical or esthetic reasons, for public facilities we normally use instead restroom (in the US primarily) or washroom (Canada primarily) to describe the place we are going to do… whatever. At home, it's the bathroom.

    English-speaking Europeans refer to those places as the toilet

    ...and in North America, we don't.
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    English-speaking Europeans refer to those places as the toilet
    This is a monster of a thread, and it's in the earlier posts, but it's worth restating that non-American speakers use a wide range of terms apart from toilet. I'm very likely to say loo or ladies or gents​ for instance.
     
    <Added to this thread. Nat, Moderator>
    Hi,
    I’d like to know in our every-day conversation, for example, if you are together with your family, and if you want to go to the washroom, what do you say? Please tell me what do you usually say in family, in work, etc. Thank you.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Sure, if I want to go and relieve myself, I probably wouldn't want to broadcast the fact. I might try find some way around mentioning where I'm going but I'm not going to pretent that I'm going for a bath, a rest, a wash or even comfort. Normally I'd say "Excuse me.", "I'll be back." or something.
    does 'relieving oneself' refer to both peeing and pooing? :)
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    Please note that this post and the following ones have now been added to a previous extensive thread discussing this topic. DonnyB - moderator.
    Hello everyone
    Please let me know whether there is any single name for both bathroom and washroom?

    I live in my friend's apartment. In that apartment, there's one washroom and one bathroom. This is a newly built apartment. The washroom and the bathroom have not yet been distempered. Some more maintenance is yet to be done. I asked my friend via a text msg whether the bathroom and the washroom have been distempered or not.
    I want to use a single word for both bathroom and washroom to ask my friend this question.
     
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    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    What do you mean by the term "washroom", Roymalika?
    This is what I mean by washroom and bathroom:
    Washroom= a room where there's a toilet, where people defecate/urinate.
    Bathroom= a room where there's a shower, where people take bath.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Thank you. I would never have guessed.

    Since they are two separate rooms, I wouldn't know how to refer to them both in one word. In British homes, a bathroom often includes a toilet (for excretion purposes), and there is usually also a small separate downstairs WC with just a toilet and hand basin for guests to use.

    I suggest using "the bathroooms", but that might be confusing for speakers of AE. Is your friend likely to be more familiar with AE or BE terms?
     

    reno33

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    In the USA, almost all such places are simply called "bathroom". If you have 2 story house with a bathroom on each floor, the bathroom on the first floor (the ground floor) is simply called "downstairs bathroom" regardless of what it contains and what you can do in it. In the past, these "downstairs bathrooms" might have been known as "the powder room" or "the guest bathroom" but those terms are rather dated.
    In public buildings, these bathrooms are usually called "restrooms". If you're in a restaurant or other public establishment, the question one should ask is "Can you tell me where the restroom is?"
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I have never heard the word 'washroom' and if I did hear it I would take the meaning at face value - a place where you wash yourself, i.e. a kind of bathroom where you cannot do 1 or 2, i.e. there is no toilet bowl.

    All toilets, WCs, lavatories, restrooms, etc., are places where you can do 1 and 2 but you cannot take a shower or a bath.

    The only word that might give me the idea of an all-in-one place is 'the facilities', though people usually imply, euphemistically, again 'a toilet'. Still, the word is general enough to convey both meanings.
    If you're in a restaurant or other public establishment, the question one should ask is "Can you tell me where the restroom is?"
    When I was in the US I carelessly (and on occasion stubbornly) asked about 'the toilet' (calling a spade a spade, hey :) ) and was invariably understood. I suppose they benevolently treated this as some sort of European quirk. Of course, I knew all too well that I should ask about 'the restroom'... :D
     
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    reno33

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I'm surprised no one's mentioned what is used all over Europe (or was, when I was younger).......the famous W.C.. (water closet). I wonder is that's still used.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Everywhere I have been in Europe, it is either WC or some local variation of the word 'toilet'. When said, especially in English, the abbreviation WC may not be understood, though.
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I assume the washroom with the toilet also has a sink for washing your hands? If so it could be referred to as a “half bath”, a term used for bathrooms without a shower or tub, in private residences but not public places. Public restrooms are not expected to have showers and tubs in them and can just be the bathroom, restroom, the facilities. For your friend’s apartment though the term would work well at least in AE.

    If it has all three: toilet, sink and bathing facilites, it’s a “full bath”.
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    Yes, bathrooms usually have both facilities.
    But I was talking in post 3 about the bathroom that has only the bathing facility and the washroom that has only the washing (defecation/urination) facility. I wonder why that washroom that has only the washing facility can be called a bathroom? :confused:
    Bathroom should only be meant for taking bath in it, as the name indicates (bathroom).
     

    Alex Branco

    New Member
    Português
    I have heard also that washroom would call a Loo in British, right? Maybe it sounds like a part of regional dialect. But I think that Bathroom everyone can understand very well. :D
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have heard also that washroom would call a Loo in British, right? Maybe it sounds like a part of regional dialect. But I think that Bathroom everyone can understand very well. :D
    "Loo" is still common in Britain. "Washroom" is not, and choosing such an unusual word would automatically make me think it was somewhere where you washed, and that it probably did not contain a toilet or a bath. In my mind, I imagine a row of sinks in a hostel or similar type of accommodation.

    In Britain, if you actually need to refer to the rooms, rather than politely referring to someone going to the toilet, then I would expect people to use the most accurate description. Your two rooms would be a "toilet" (possibly a "loo", a "lavatory" or a "W.C") and a "shower room" (possibly a "bathroom"), and I really cannot imagine anyone using the same expression for both rooms.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Also, what does distempered mean? I've never heard that word anywhere, let alone in relation to construction.
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Also, what does distempered mean?
    "Distemper" is a chalk paint that used to be widely used for painting interior walls, up until the early twentieth century in Britain, so far as I am aware, and has come back into fashion in recent decades. I understand it is very satisfying to put on and gives a lovely appearance when new, but all my experience has been with old flaky powdery distemper that cannot be painted over because nothing will stick to it, and is a right pain to remove. Anyway, it appears this is what the rooms are to be painted in.

    Here is an article: What Is Distemper Paint?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    a public restroom.
    That's a room where dead folk are displayed before funerals. [Okay, I'm making stuff up now. My point is that one man's washroom is another woman's bathroom is another fluidly-gendered-person's laundry room etc. etc. etc.]
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    I'm a speaker of AmE, and I never use 'washroom,' so perspective is everything.
    (Just as a side note, I use AmE instead of AE as a courtesy to speakers of Australian English, so that I indicate I don't think A *has to* mean American.)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm still fascinated by the idea that "wash" means "defecate/urinate", as implied by
    ... the washroom that has only the washing (defecation/urination) facility.
    But then nearly all the terms we use are euphemisms, including "toilet".
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    My Norwegian tenants In the US referred to the room where the washer and dryer are as the "washroom" and I felt I needed to explain to them that that was the "laundry room" and if someone said he was going to the washroom, he probably wasn't planning to wash his clothes. I am an AmE speaker and although I probably don't ever use the word washroom I do hear it sometimes. I think it is for a public facility though, not in your house.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    But then nearly all the terms we use are euphemisms, including "toilet".
    I like the idea of referring to the room, or to whatever facilities it may contain, as the "euphemism".

    "I'll be right back -- I just need to go visit the euphemism."
     
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