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Toilette, Klo, WC - The many German word ...

Toilette, Klo, WC - The many German words for toilet

Nov 22, 2021

November 19th is Day of the Toilet, yes that’s a thing.

The word ‘toilet’ in English and “Toilette” in German both come from the Middle French word ‘toile’ and its diminutive ‘toilette’. However, these French words don’t refer to the toilet as we know but meant ‘hunting net’ (see ‘toil’ in English) and ‘cloth’ or ‘small piece of cloth’.

The word meaning ‘cloth’ referred to a cloth covering clothes, and later a cloth to cover your shoulders while shaving or styling your hair. It then became to mean the covering on a vanity, the things on the vanity, and finally the dressing table itself. From there it was only a small step to the meaning of “grooming, dressing, and washing”. We still find this meaning in “to make one’s toilet” or in German "Toilette machen".

Finally, in the late 18th century the term ‘toilet’ was expanded to mean the room in which one got ready for the day. That room often contained washing facilities and also a ‘water closet’ where you had the ability to flush your excrements. If you could afford such a water closet, it would be in the bathroom or the ‘toilet’ as in the room where you groom and wash yourself.

And now, ‘toilet’ only refers to the actual toilet fixture.

The German word 🚽„Toilette” follows the same path, however other words are also used to refer to it.

🚽 WC - The abbreviation is pretty typical and is often used on signs. It stands for, you probably guessed it, for water closet.

Related to that is 🚽 Wasserklosett or short 🚽 Klosett, though it is an old fashioned term and most people don’t use it. However, you can find it in a different version of the children’s song “Alle meine Entchen”. (Alle meine Entchen schwimmen im Klosett, schwimmen im Klosett, drück ich auf das Knöpfchen, sind sie alle weg.)

🚽 Das Klo - Short version of Klosett, very common. Maybe best translated with loo in English.

🚽 Der Abort - Also a very old term and barely used today. It probably comes from the low German “af ort” as in ‘abgelegener Ort’ - remote place.

🚽 Das (stille) Örtchen - (Quiet) little place - Örtchen is the diminutive to Ort , and refers back to Abort as in secluded or remote place. Der Lokus - from Latin locus - place, location

🚽 Die Latrine - from Latin lavare - to wash; English latrine

🚽 Das Häusl (Austria, Bavaria), 🚽 das Hüüsli (Switzerland) - dialect for little house

What word do you use?


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