As far as I am aware, in the US it is very common to refer to the room that contains the toilet (device for disposing of human waste) as the bathroom. If this is a separate room from the room that contains the bath how do they distinguish between them?

"Where are you?"

"I'm in the bathroom" - doing my private business leave me alone!

"I'm in the bathroom" - washing my hands, it's OK to come and talk to me

In Australia the room that contains the bath is called the bathroom and the room that contains the toilet is called the toilet, unless, confusingly the bath and toilet are actually both in one room, in which case it's called the bathroom. There are now many people in Australia who use the American term "bathroom" in public when they mean "toilet", however, toilet is universally understood and is not considered at all impolite.


Since people found the original title "in the bathroom" vs "in the bathroom" confusing I have changed it.

  • 1
    This question is essentially a duplicate of english.stackexchange.com/questions/8281/…
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 5 '14 at 7:53
  • Your question title is a bit weird, maybe something like "What's the difference between the "American English bathroom" and "ROTW bathroom"?" (rest of the world)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 5 '14 at 9:31
  • @ErikKowal No, that question is just about toilets. My question is really about bathrooms.
    – CJ Dennis
    Dec 5 '14 at 13:31
  • Times like these makes a term like privy (I know it's defined as "outhouse") useful. But "I'm on the toilet" is a good enough "Don't bother me."
    – SrJoven
    Dec 5 '14 at 14:43
  • *Toilet is non-U, perhaps that is why. Besides, the whole purpose of "I'm going to the bathroom" is to obfuscate your true plans: the ambiguity is intentional. You don't want people to know for sure what you're going to do. I'm going to wash my hands and powder my nose now. Apr 7 '15 at 16:29

In the USA, it is very rare to have a room with just a bathtub in it. The bathroom might more properly be titled the toilet room, because what we regularly call a "bathroom" doesn't even necessarily INCLUDE a bath. From Wikipedia - "In North America and some other regions, it" (bathroom)" characteristically contains a toilet and a sink; hence in North American English the word "bathroom" is commonly used to mean any room containing a toilet, even a public toilet (although in the United States this is more commonly called a restroom)."

I have seen it where the toilets are seperate from another room with mirrors and sinks, but that's usually just on the woman's bathroom and I think is called a powder room. Since you never really have a situation where the toilet and the sinks/bathtub are in different rooms, "I'm in the bathroom" always means "Don't come in". Unless the door is open, I suppose. ;)


Toilets in public places are called "restrooms" in AmE.

And as far as I know it's not THAT common for the toilet and the bathroom to be separate rooms in the US. Then again I am not an American so that part is an assumption of mine.

If they are not in the same room, the rooms are called bathroom and toilet respectively. If they are in the same room, that room is referred to as the bathroom.

If you know nothing about a person's bathroom situation (whether it's two separate rooms or not) and you want to use a person's toilet, you'd still always ask "May I use your bathroom?" and not "May I use your toilet?". And even if you know that the person you're asking has his or her toilet in a different room than the bathroom you wouldn't use the word "toilet". Why mention something that makes you think of feces and other unpleasant imagery when there is a perfectly proper word to use - bathroom.

Also keep in mind that by asking to use the toilet you immediately reveal to the person you are asking exactly what you intend to do. Asking to use the bathroom instead allows you to maintain a higher degree of privacy as it does not necessarily mean you're going to use the toilet. It still leaves the possibility that you may be wanting to use the bathroom for something different, like washing your hands.

And as to you wondering about how to tell whether a person is doing his private business or simply washing his hands in the bathroom: I doubt that's a problem which often arises as it's implied that as soon as someone is in the bathroom, he does not want to be disturbed unless that person explicitly told you otherwise.

  • Australians are not at all embarrassed to let other people know that they're going to use the toilet. The word toilet is not taboo, so does not provoke the unpleasant imagery you mention. For us bathroom is the proper name for the room with the bath in it (it makes sense to us)!
    – CJ Dennis
    Dec 5 '14 at 13:28

Not sure if this is regional but here in California USA we say Bathroom for a room in a house or apartment that has a bath tub/shower, wash basin and toilet. A full bath (room) has all but a half bath will usually have a stand up shower instead of a bath tub. A Men's Room or Women's/Ladies Room is a room with urinal(s)/toilet(s), wash basins and some form of drying device be it a warm air blower of towel dispenser. There is usually a mirror or reflective surface of sorts, depending on the establishment in which to tidy up. The women's room is usually decorated with flowers or vanities. Men's rooms are usually set up for rapid clean up. Almost looks like they hose it down after hours. Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Actually, a "half bath" has no baths or showers, just a sink and toilet.
    – Oldcat
    Dec 5 '14 at 22:01
  • @Oldcat - Correct. The toilet/sink/shower combo is commonly called a "three-quarters bath".
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 17 '15 at 3:31

If it's a toilet, it's called a toilet. Except in America where there is a taboo on "vulgar" terms and a euphemism is required, so they use "bathroom". It doesn't matter whether or not there is a bath or shower in the room.

The irony is that both toilet and lavatory are already euphemisms, they both actually mean washroom! So the Americans now use a euphemism to hide the "vulgar" use of another euphemism.

It's like "ass" which is an animal related to the horse, domestic varieties of which are called donkeys. The vulgar anglo-saxon "arse" was too much so the Americans used a similar sounding euphemism which has now become vulgar in its own right. And no, it has nothing to do with the rhotic "r" or the path/trap vowel change, the word comes from the German "Arsch" and is cognate with the Dutch "aars", both with an "r".

  • 1
    How exactly is toilet (meaning "to wash oneself") "vulgar" while bathroom is a euphemism? Jul 17 '15 at 2:45
  • 2
    This sounds more like a rant than an answer.
    – choster
    Jul 17 '15 at 3:02
  • 1
    toilet meaning a room is also a euphemism. It used to refer to the process of washing and dressing for the day, not the rooms it was done in
    – Oldcat
    Jul 17 '15 at 16:46

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