Why Are Bathrooms Called Lavatories?

Last Updated on June 1, 2024 by Francis

Have you ever wondered why we call rooms with toilets and sinks in them ‘lavatories’? It turns out that the answer is quite interesting and involves a history lesson. The English language has changed over the centuries, and the way we use certain words to refer to specific objects and places has also evolved. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the evolution of the word ‘lavatory’ and explore why bathrooms are called lavatories.

Why Are Bathrooms Called Lavatories?

What is the Origin of the Word ‘Lavatory’

The word lavatory is derived from the Latin word lavare, which means “to wash”. The term has been used in English since the 16th century to refer to a place where people can bathe or perform other hygiene-related activities. Over the years, the term has come to be associated with a room or area in a public building or a home specifically designed for those activities.

The earliest known examples of lavatories were simple wooden structures. These were usually located in the backyards of homes and were used for washing clothes, dishes, and other personal items. Later on, these structures evolved into rooms that were designed specifically for bathing and personal hygiene. In the 19th century, public lavatories began to appear in cities around the world, and the term “lavatory” was used to refer to these spaces.

Today, the term “lavatory” is used to refer to any type of bathroom, whether it’s in a home, public building, or other space. It is also used to describe the fixtures and fittings in a bathroom, such as toilets, sinks, and showers.

What are the Different Types of Lavatories?

Lavatories come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common type is the traditional washroom, which includes a toilet, sink, and shower. There are also larger bathrooms that can include additional fixtures such as bathtubs and bidets. In addition, some lavatories are designed to be wheelchair accessible, while others are designed with special features such as motion-activated lighting or sound-proof walls.

Lavatories can also be divided into two categories: private and public. Private lavatories are typically found in homes and are used exclusively by the occupants of that home. Public lavatories, on the other hand, are typically found in public buildings such as schools, hospitals, and airports. They are typically open to the public and are often maintained and cleaned by the facility.

What are the Benefits of Using a Lavatory?

The primary benefit of using a lavatory is hygiene and comfort. By providing a private space for people to perform their hygiene-related activities, lavatories help to ensure that people remain clean and hygienic. In addition, lavatories can also provide a sense of comfort and privacy, which can be important in public spaces.

Lavatories also help to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria. By providing a space for people to wash their hands and use the toilet, lavatories can help to reduce the spread of disease. In addition, public lavatories are typically equipped with hand sanitizer and other hygiene products, which can further reduce the risk of spreading germs.

What are the Different Types of Lavatory Fixtures?

Lavatory fixtures are the items that are found in a bathroom or lavatory. These include toilets, sinks, showers, and bathtubs. Most lavatories also include mirrors, towel bars, and other items to make the space more comfortable. In addition, some lavatories may include special features such as motion-activated lighting or soundproof walls.


Toilets are the most common type of lavatory fixture and are used for excretion. Toilets come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can range from traditional design to more modern designs. They are typically constructed from ceramic or plastic and can be either wall-mounted or floor-mounted.


Sinks are a common lavatory fixture and are used for washing hands, brushing teeth, and other hygiene-related activities. Sinks come in a variety of styles, including pedestal, wall-mounted, and undermount designs. They can also be made from a variety of materials, such as porcelain, stainless steel, and granite.

Showers and Bathtubs

Showers and bathtubs are often found in larger lavatories and can provide a relaxing and enjoyable bathing experience. Showers are typically made from acrylic or fiberglass and come in a variety of sizes and styles. Bathtubs are typically made from porcelain or acrylic and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles.

Top 6 Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of the term “lavatory”?

The term “lavatory” has its roots in the Latin word “lavare” which means “to wash.” This is because the main purpose of bathroom is to wash oneself. Traditionally, baths were taken in large communal baths, often with separate rooms for washing. This lead to the creation of the “lavatory” as a room where one could go to perform the necessary ritual of washing.

When was the term “lavatory” first used?

The term “lavatory” first appeared in English around the mid-1700s, but the concept of a room specifically dedicated to washing had been around much longer. Ancient Roman baths, for example, often included a room for washing, and the concept is likely much older than that.

What is the purpose of a lavatory?

The primary purpose of a lavatory is to provide a place for people to wash themselves. This may include washing with soap, running warm water over oneself, and other personal hygiene practices. Lavatories are also often used for other purposes, such as going to the restroom, brushing teeth, and applying makeup.

Are there different types of lavatories?

Yes, there are a few different types of lavatories. The most common type is a bathroom, which typically includes a sink, toilet, and shower or bathtub. Other types of lavatories include powder rooms, which are smaller rooms with only a sink, and half-baths, which have a sink and toilet but no shower or bathtub.

What is the difference between a lavatory and a restroom?

A lavatory is a room specifically designed for washing oneself, while a restroom is a room designed for going to the restroom. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, a lavatory will typically include a sink, while a restroom will not. Additionally, a lavatory is often used for other personal hygiene activities, while a restroom is generally only used for going to the restroom.

Are there special design considerations for lavatories?

Yes, there are special design considerations for lavatories. In order to be comfortable and functional, lavatories should be designed to have enough room for people to move around freely and have access to all of the necessary fixtures. Ideally, lavatories should also be designed with ergonomics in mind, and incorporate features such as non-slip surfaces, accessible faucets, and adjustable shower heads. Additionally, lavatories should be designed for easy cleaning, as they are often prone to germs and dirt.

Finding A Sewer Odor In Your Bathroom

In conclusion, it is clear that the term ‘lavatory’ is a remnant of a distant past, when the use of water for bathing and cleaning became a common practice. It is a term that is still used today, despite the fact that bathrooms are now primarily used for bathing, grooming and other personal hygiene activities. In short, the word ‘lavatory’ is a reminder of the importance of water and its role in keeping us clean and healthy.

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