What exactly is the meaning of the phrase “The morning constitutional”? Is it an early morning walk or the first visit to the bathroom during the day?

What is the origin of this phrase? What is the word “constitutional” doing here?

  • In which context was the phrase used? Depending from that, the meaning of the sentence can change.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 17:03
  • 1
    in support of kiamlaluno, FX_, and Stan: "yes" it is both a walk and a visit to the bathroom, depending on context.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 18:51
  • 2
    @horatio: Or both simultaneously, depending on the distance of the privy. Commented May 25, 2012 at 15:32

6 Answers 6


It literally means "something that is good for your constitution", usually a walk, but it's also a common euphemism for the first visit to the washroom, particularly in areas where heading out to use the facilities is not a very distant memory. It was much more common in my youth (and it's been a while since I was a youth) among older people, and it seemed to carry a bit of feigned poshness among the working class (who didn't need to go for a purposeless walk to get their exercise).


The New Oxford American Dictionary has for constitutional:

noun (dated): a walk, typically one taken regularly to maintain or restore good health.

Regarding etymology, constitution means “a person's physical state with regard to vitality, health, and strength”, so the constitutional comes from its supposed benefits to the health. (Think of it as a “walk to improve one's constitution”, if you will.)


It also frequently refers to a morning bowel movement. Its a euphemism for a bowel movement. (From a time when using the bathroom meant going for a walk to the outhouse--the original meaning was still "going for a walk", but this idea was used in the euphemism for going to the bathroom.)


Maybe this is an American English versus British English or regional thing. I've never heard the phrase used to mean a walk. I've only heard it used as a euphemism for a visit to the bathroom.

  • I have understood it to be Cockney Rhyming Slang. Constitutional-> Constitutional Right -> Word that rhymes with "right" which means poop. To such an extent, if someone said they were going for their"daily constitutional" and went a walk in the woods, I'd assume that they had a preference to poop in the woods. Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 10:59

It simply means "morning walk". I remember to have come across it once in a story by Somerset Maugham.

Oxford Learners Dictionary defines it in this manner:

(old-fashioned or humorous) a short walk that people take because it is good for their health

  • I don't think it's specific to "morning". I recall (in Orwell's 1984 iirc) an Evening constitutional.
    – JDługosz
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 1:01

I've only ever heard of it as a morning walk. I'm a little disillusioned! I'm 55 — is that old? Got a good vocabulary from reading, maybe a bit sheltered as far as "the vernacular of the peasantry" (a line of the Wizard of Oz' no-doubt self-professed Professor Marvel, aka the wizard).


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