A public toilet has many names, depending on where you are located. Often times, it is called the bathroom, although this term is usually associated with the home. Instead, restroom would be a more appropriate term to use. Apart from these very common names, other ones used for a public toilet include latrine, toilet room, water closet or W.C., powder room, public lavatory and comfort room. Sometimes, a public toilet can be called washroom, although this is more synonymous with your bathroom, which typically has a shower facility.
If you take time to research into how these terms came to be, you’ll find that there’s actually an interesting history behind each.
Mainly a British term, the origin of the word “loo” is unknown. One of the speculations is that the term may have been derived from Waterloo. Another theory is that it came from the French term garde l’eau!, which can be very loosely translated to mean “ watch out for the water”. This was what was usually said in medieval times so that people walking on the streets can avoid being doused with the contents of a chamber pot being emptied out through the window.
Dunny is an Australian expression which means an outside toilet or what is commonly known as an outhouse. From this expression, the term “dunnyman” is coined for the person who would come on a regular basis to clean or empty the pan found under the seat of a dunny. The word is apparently derived from British dialect, in particular, the word dunnekin which means dung-house. Nowadays, the word is used informally to refer any lavatory, mostly to drop or pit lavatories that are located in the Australian bush. These types of lavatories are also known as thunderboxes.
If the word does not sound familiar at all, you are not alone. This word is mostly used in North East England. The normal statement used is “gannin te the netty” which means going to the bathroom. The real origin of the word, however, remains uncertain. It is speculated that the term is derived from a corruption of the word “necessity” or perhaps from one of the graffiti that is written on Hadrian’s wall. Netty also seems to have a link with gabinetti which is an Italian word that means “toilets”. The singular form of the word is gabinetto.
The toilet is sometimes called a “John” probably because of Sir John Harrington of Kelston, a courier of Queen Elizabeth I’s court. He got the moniker, her “saucy godson” because of his naughty penchant for penning risque poetry as well as other writings, which often got him into hot water with the Queen. Apart from being a prominent member of the Queen’s court, he was also the inventor of the first flushing toilet in Britain, which was called the Ajax in the old days or “jakes” which is an old slang for toilet.