So many people wonder where the term “toilet” came from and how it came to be used widely. In French “toilette” refers to a “dressing room” and seemingly it is where the term got its roots. In turn, “toilette” seemed to have come from “toile” also a French term referring to the type of cloth draped on the shoulders of an individual as his or her hair was being worked on.

By about the 17th century, the term “toilet” was not referring to a place but a process whereby you would get dressed, enhance your makeup, fix your hair and carry out related things mostly on personal grooming. Gradually, the term started representing the things that were found in a place where a person went to do some grooming, such as powder bottles and a table among other things.

American Touch

It was in the 1800 America that the term started referring to a room where a person went to ready himself or herself for the day, including the place where the device people call “toilet” was held. Together with other fashions from the French, the word had now come to be used fully in English. In the United States “toilet” was also being seen as an impolite word, but in other areas, the term was not a source of any embarrassment. This is why the choice of a word as an alternative for toilet was a normal thing especially through class connotations or regional dialect in other regions.


A good example of how the term was approached across the divide is by the American Standard manufacturers who sold the lavatory under the name “toilet” but the Kohler Company that mostly sold products at a higher price and installed them in most expensive and posh homes sold the toilet as a “closet” or “commode”, words that refer to the same thing. Japanese imported products that had a higher quality and cost for the lavatory were referred to as “toilets”. When it comes to referring to the room itself or the real equipment used in such a place, it is normal for dysphemisms and euphemisms to be used.

Accepted Euphemism

There has been an acceptance of euphemisms that keep on changing as newer ones come into use, such as treadmill at work. In the said euphemism, either the plumbing system or the room was being described, whether a regional dialect was used or not, formality level was being alluded to or the social situation. It is possible that when a “john” is mentioned someone knows the toilet is being referred to. It is a term that is not wholly new since it refers to Sir John Harrington, who was the godson of Queen Elizabeth I and an inventor of the toilet. Apart from writing notable pieces of work, Sir Harrington invented the first flushing lavatory in Britain and he named it the “Ajax”, a derivative of the slang term “Jakes” referring to what people refer to as the toilet today.

The Ajax Metamorphosis

Sir Harrington even wrote a work on the subject of what he called the Ajax as much as it was a political allegory referring to excrement or poison affecting the state. While the work of writing had him banished for some time, it was true that he had created a flushing toilet already in use in his home. He later made one for the Queen in 1596. To work the device, you needed to pull some cord that lets in water from a closet to flush the waste away.

Sam Thompson lives in Sydney, Australia. He is an editor for Toilet Paper Plus, the best place to buy toilet paper online. He spends his spare time surfing the beaches of the east coast of Australia. He hopes one day all companies will look after the environment.