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I have come across the usage of 'throne' for a lavatory. Is there any special etymology to this? Is it simply because a throne is a seat? Or does the equivalence have any royal *under*pinnings to it? ;)

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While I can't answer the question, I can say that this exists in german too, although it doesn't seem to be very common. – takrl Feb 19 '12 at 10:55
It is not answer but It may interest you that in Poland we sometime use same word for lavatory. – Trismegistos Feb 19 '12 at 20:47
I think it should be obvious -- probably reinvented many times over the years: "Where is Sam?" "He's sitting on the throne." – Hot Licks Jan 17 '15 at 22:35
up vote 0 down vote accepted

According to Etymonline, this meaning of throne is recorded from 1922.

As to why the word throne acquired this meaning, there is a theory. Back in the European Middle Ages it was only the powerful rulers of an area who had what we today would consider toilets. There was an isolated room in the castle where only the master of the premises had access. Since this treatment was fit only for a king (or someone who wielded power that resembled that of a king), the seat where the person was allowed to sit was compared to a throne, where only one person was allowed to sit as well. Hence the association.

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As poetical as your theory is, Irene, I expect the real origin is simpler and more ironic -equating the fulfillment of a basic human function with the ways and means of a monarch (who also puts his pants on one leg at a time) is such an easy, satisfying trope. Satisfying because it pokes a finger in the , uhm, eye of the powerful. Reversing the hierarchy yet maintaining the office [man is king of his castle; woman is queen for a day] seems likelier to me. – fortunate1 Feb 19 '12 at 14:41
@fortunate1: I wouldn't even go so far as that. Irene's "analysis" is definitely far too rationalistic, but even yours makes more of it than is justified, imho. It's just a larky euphemism, like calling the lavatory the "little boy's/girl's room". Do we really need to analyse that in terms of how in the early days only children needed the comfort and accessibilty of an inside toilet? – FumbleFingers Feb 19 '12 at 15:58
Indeed, ff, I was impertinent. I submit to your larkiness, and will say no more. – fortunate1 Feb 19 '12 at 16:04

We also call the toilet trono (throne) in Spanish and according to other comments it's also called that way in other languages such as German and Polish (I'd dare say it's the same for almost every other language too). As for its origin I think it's easy to see the relation. It´s just a humourous way to refer to the toilet, giving the idea that the person there is doing something important, when in fact he is most probably not.

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I consider that what people do at the toilet is extremely important! – WS2 Nov 16 '13 at 0:07

Do a Google ngram viewer search, when interested to find out about etymology. Google has been digitizing a lot of books dating from 1500s (at least - I am sure).

I have the following evidence to say the usage of throne as a seat of power is dated much back.

Have copy pasted text from ngram search here: James Balfour (sir, bart), Robert Douglas - 1651 a line from the book: "It is the Lords Throne ; Remember you have a. tying above you" http://books.google.co.in/books?id=oOdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA22&dq=%22throne%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=c55BT_-_LYXNrQfBsaTjBw&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=%22throne%22&f=false

the above book is the oldest reference to any book containing the word throne within Google Book's database dating from 1500 AD.

you can also see ngram usage result for the word throne here: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=throne&year_start=1000&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

As far as the investigation for of the word with regard to lavatory (using ngram), I am afraid one will have to read a lot :) of Google book results..

I just spent some time reading the titles.. most of the titles were talking about God or King and were written in context of events from history.. And we already know that older books were more conservative about the choice & usage of the words.

We now, can make fun of the word throne because we are not ruled by kings any more. I doubt whether one would have used the word earlier than 1800/1900s with regard to toilet.

May be as Irene said, Etymonline.com is telling us the correct date with the lavatory sense of usage :)

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I'd bet it has something to do with King Louis XIV's "throne."

He had a special throne made with a chamber pot within it made so that he could continue to conduct court without having leave to relieve himself.

A replica is on display at The Sublabh International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi. They featured the museum on the show Globe Trotter.

Here's a link to an article about the museum: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/toilet-museum-king-louis-xivs-2372946

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How reliable is the Daily Mirror for things like this? – ScotM Jan 17 '15 at 22:38

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