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The toilet of Venus (François Boucher)
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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle French toilette (small cloth), diminutive of toile (cloth); a cloth used to protect garments when making up the hair or shaving.



toilet (plural toilets)

Western toilet
Asian squat toilet
Ancient Roman toilets
An Outdoor toilet (outhouse)
  1. (archaic) Personal grooming; washing, dressing etc. [from 17th c.]
    • 1931, William Faulkner, Sanctuary, Vintage 1993, page 111:
      Three women got down and standing on the curb they made unabashed toilets, smoothing skirts and stockings, brushing one another's back, opening parcels and donning various finery.
  2. (now rare) One's style of dressing; dress, outfit. [from 18th c.]
    • 1871–72, George Eliot, Middlemarch, Chapter 1
      "It is so painful in you, Celia, that you will look at human beings as if they were merely animals with a toilet, and never see the great soul in a man's face."
    • 1917, Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge":
      "It is a quarter-past two," he said. "Your telegram was dispatched about one. But no one can glance at your toilet and attire without seeing that your disturbance dates from the moment of your waking."
  3. (archaic) A dressing room. [from 19th c.]
  4. Now specifically, a room or enclosed cubicle containing a lavatory, e.g. a bathroom or water closet (WC).
    • 1906, Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, Chapter 26
      there were also tons of garbage festering in the sun, and the greasy laundry of the workers hung out to dry, and dining rooms littered with food and black with flies, and toilet rooms that were open sewers.
    • 2002, Digby Tantam, Psychotherapy and Counselling in Practice: A Narrative Framework (page 122)
      He would hit her when she cried and, if this did not work, would lock her in the toilet for hours on end.
  5. A lavatory or device for depositing human waste and then flushing it away with water. [from 20th c.]
    EPA is currently developing the specification for high-efficiency toilets. All HETs that meet WaterSense criteria for efficiency and performance will be eligible to receive a label once EPA finalizes the specification.US Environmental Protection Agency.
  6. Other similar devices, such as squat toilets, as in Japan or the Middle East.
  7. (figuratively) A shabby or dirty place, especially a lounge/bar/pub/tavern. [from 20th c.]
  8. (obsolete) A covering of linen, silk, or tapestry, spread over a table in a chamber or dressing room.
  9. (obsolete) A dressing table.
    • 1904, Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock, Canto I, lines 121-126:
      And now, unveil’d, the toilet stands display’d,
      Each silver vase in mystic order laid.
      First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores,
      With head uncover’d, the cosmetic powers.
      A heav’nly image in the glass appears;
      To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears.

Usage notes[edit]

Before the 20th century, toilet universally referred to personal grooming, bathing, and washing, to combing or arranging one's hair, shaving, etc. This sense is preserved today in toiletry 'personal grooming item' and toilet bag. Nowadays, it is mostly used to indicate a toilet seat or a room with such a seat. Terms such as "pulmonary toilet" and "toilet of the mouth" are however still used in hospitals and clinics.

Derived terms[edit]



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toilet (third-person singular simple present toilets, present participle toileting, simple past and past participle toileted)

  1. (dated) To dress and groom oneself
  2. To use the toilet, or assist (a child, etc.) in using the toilet




Borrowing from French toilette (small cloth) diminutive of toile (cloth).


  • IPA(key): /toalɛt/, [tˢoaˈlɛd̥] or IPA(key): /tɔilɛt/, [tˢʌiˈlɛd̥]


toilet n (singular definite toilettet, plural indefinite toiletter)

  1. toilet (room containing lavatory); men's room, ladies' room
  2. toilet (lavatory)



External links[edit]