Origin of the word “toilet”

The word toilet is linked to the words ‘towel’ and ‘textile’. The origin of this word is the Latin texere (weave), which in turn originated the French word toilette (small towel).

The meaning of the word toilette later evolved into ‘the act of washing and dressing up’. It was only in the middle of the 19th century that in the USA the word came to be used as synonymous with lavatory (used to denote a ‘sink’ or a ‘toilet bowl’).

The word toilet does sound French and even the spelling is almost French. But the correct spelling in French is toilettes .

The word toilet does not always have the meaning of a bathroom. Sometimes when people say ‘I am going to the toilet’ it usually means ‘I am going to go wash up / get ready’. This is because it was formerly used to designate the place where things were stored for styling and body care.

An expression much used in France is “faire sa toilette” that means “to wash”. There is also “trousse de toilette” which translates to ‘bag for hygiene products’, and “Gant de toilette” which is a washcloth in the form of a glove to wash the body and face. Don’t forget the “eau de toilette”, which you can read on almost any cologne bottle. It means literally ‘toilet water’, which sounds a bit gross.

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