The Origins of the Toilet

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Why do some people call a toilet a John?
According to countless resources the reason some people have tagged a toilet with the name John is simply because the first recorded inventor of flush toilet is John Harrington. John Harrington was a descendant of Queen Elizabeth The First.


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What are the origins of the word toilet?
The french were the first to use the word toilet almost three centuries ago. The word like countless other words is Latin. The word derives from tela or plural tele which means cloth. French barbershops used the word toilette to describe the grooming activities typically associated with the barber shop. In the US the word later evolved into the device which we use to flush our waste in the bathroom. However it is not uncommon in Europe to hear the word toilet being associated with what we know as the bathroom as a whole.

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What is a commode? Why is a commode associated with the word toilet?
Well commode a few centuries ago in France just meant a cabinet that is close to the ground or a Chest with Drawer. During the Victorian Era commode took on a whole new definition. The people of the Victorian Era had bedside cabinets that enclosed a chamber pot or in other words pot that was used for the basic needs of a toilet. Except of course it did not flush.

ancient toilet

Why do some people call a water closet a toilet?
It is common to see the word water closet used on blueprints for homes. In this context it typically means a standard toilet. The word water closet simply means, “room with a toilet.” Water closets were originally separate from the bath room. Bath room originally meant a room with a bath in it. The first public water closet was a pay per use toilet. The customers were charged one penny to enjoy the luxury of a flushing toilet. This is where the motto “to spend a penny” came from.

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What is a loo?
The origins of the word loo are not exactly known. However it is believed to come from the french. In the early days before flush toilets and indoor plumbing the French would dump their waste out the window, exclaiming, “Gardez l’eau”. This meant look out for water. The word l’eau sounds like the word loo.

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Why do some people call a toilet, “a head”?
The word head is commonly used on boats. It is called a head because it was placed at the front of a boat. The front of the boat is where the most splashing from the seas occurs. This would allow the head or toilet to receive a well needed cleansing or flush.

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Where does the term lavatory come from?
Lavatory, has it beginnings in Latin from the word lavare meaning wash. If you speak spanish you know that lavarese means to wash. The word lavare evolved over time to mean lavatory which some consider a proper way to say bathroom. Bathroom which is commonly know to enclose a toilet as well a place where you can wash.

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