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What's the word for a man's bedroom or private room -- as opposed to boudoir, which is a woman's bedroom or private room? If one doesn't exist in common English usage, what would be a French loanword? Or possibly a loanword from another language?

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  • 9
    Fortress of solitude. Duh!
    – Tushar Raj
    May 8, 2015 at 10:31
  • 13
    Why does there have to exist an opposite to a woman's private room? Are there male versions of common feminine articles like compact, lipstick, rouge, camisole, or négligée?
    – Robusto
    May 8, 2015 at 11:49
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    Well, if a man can wear a camisole I think he's entitled to a boudoir, don't you?
    – Robusto
    May 8, 2015 at 12:32
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    You're splitting hairs. We don't call a male version of a camisole a "manisole" (or do we?), so why can't a man have a boudoir? Several of the dictionaries don't even suggest exclusivity to women when defining that term.
    – Robusto
    May 8, 2015 at 12:37
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    Culturally (these days, european, etc), the term 'boudoir' is used only for a woman's dressing room. Men may very well have such spaces for dressing but it does not have such a special name for it that word specifically for just men. That is, there is no single word with the same analogous connotations that 'boudoir' has but for men. But 'dressing room' will do.
    – Mitch
    May 8, 2015 at 13:21

6 Answers 6

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A man cave (also called manspace), is often used for a man's private room.

As in,

I'm planning to turn the spare bedroom into a man cave.

Fortress of Solitude, a Superman reference, is also applicable.

As in,

If you're looking for Clark, he must be upstairs, in his fortress of solitude.

[Wikipedia]

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  • 3
    Do men typically dress themselves in a man cave? I think not.
    – Robusto
    May 9, 2015 at 9:59
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    @Robusto: I was answering the 'or private room' part.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 9, 2015 at 10:00
  • I was just going to say the same answer!
    – jvriesem
    May 9, 2015 at 22:43
15

I retreat to my den:

noun

1.0 A wild mammal’s hidden home; a lair:
a female mink had set up her den there

1.1 informal A room or hideout where a person can go to relax or be private:

This expression is less colloquial than man cave, but it has the same connotations. It also has the benefit of masculine connotation with unisex denotation, just like boudoir has feminine connotations with a unisex denotation.

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    For what little it’s worth, I came close to including that good answer in the list of “Victorian-era English equivalents of ‘fumoir’” in my answer, but I wasn’t sure if it was used back then. Anyway, it’s surely used and appropriate here in our era just as you describe. +1
    – Papa Poule
    May 8, 2015 at 18:26
  • Did the fact that it does not refer directly to bedroom dissuade you?
    – Good A.M.
    May 8, 2015 at 19:23
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    A 'den', in US usage, is often a TV room or family room, and not so personal or male-gendered as a boudoir is personal and female-gendered.
    – Mitch
    May 8, 2015 at 19:42
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    Perhaps there has been a shift in connotation?
    – Good A.M.
    May 8, 2015 at 19:50
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    We are kindred spirits, @PapaPoule. Lonely nights in the den are certainly part of the big picture :-)
    – Good A.M.
    May 8, 2015 at 22:38
14

Many French houses built with separate/formal “boudoirs” to provide privacy for the pouting ladies of the house also had/have separate/formal “fumoirs” to provide comfort and seclusion for their smoking and brandy-drinking gentlemen, so “fumoir” could perhaps be a suitable French loanword.

Victorian-era English equivalents of “le fumoir” (i.e., an area to which gentlemen would “retire” for cigars and brandies) might include “smoking room,” “front parlor,” or even “library,” all of which could be perhaps seen as predecessors of today’s “man cave” (Area 51’s good answer).

(Please note, however, that as pouting, sulking, and smoking have become equally acceptable (or equally unacceptable) behavior for both genders, both “boudoir” (at least in English, as mentioned elsewhere) and “fumoir” have become/are becoming gender neutral.)

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    Of course, the other purpose of a smoking room was to prevent smoke from contaminating the rest of the house - they also had special clothes they would wear to smoke.
    – Random832
    May 8, 2015 at 15:07
  • @Random832 I’m not sure just how concerned they were back then with contaminating the rest of the house with second-hand smoke but yes, their smoking jackets were designed to absorb the smoke and catch the falling ashes, as well as for comfort.
    – Papa Poule
    May 8, 2015 at 15:26
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    They wouldn't have had the modern health concerns, but having everything smell like smoke was still unpleasant.
    – Random832
    May 8, 2015 at 15:40
  • The usual English equivalent to the fumoir would be drawing room, but that does imply that guests are welcome; it's not a private apartment.
    – bye
    May 10, 2015 at 17:11
4

From this Wikipedia article, some historical near-equivalent rooms in the homes of medieval nobles have been called cabinet, (Italian) studiolo, or closet. None of these are in common use in this meaning today, but may be appropriate (along with solar, though that seems more like a private dining room in a large household) for writing stories set in such an environment.

I think studiolo suggests study as an equivalent which would be understood by modern audiences. Depending on the exact purpose of the ambiguously-defined 'private room', you could also call it a dressing room or a home office, though those aren't technically single words.

Of course, none of these are exact equivalents, but that's the hazard of asking for an opposite-gender equivalent of a gendered term - the full weight of historical and modern gender roles (in this case, what a woman or man would be expected to use one's private room for) is going to heavily influence the meaning and connotations of both words.

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According to Wikipedia, these are some masculine alternatives to boudoir:

Cabinet: one of a number of terms for a private room in the domestic architecture and that of palaces of early modern Europe, a room serving as a study or retreat, usually for a man.


Closet: In Elizabethan England, a room for private retreat. A way in which people of means found ways to withdraw by degrees from the public life of the household as it was lived in the late medieval great hall. This sense of "closet" has continued use in the term "closet drama", which is a literary work in the form of theatre, intended not to be mounted nor publicly presented, but to be read and visualized in privacy. Two people in intimate private conversation were until recently said to be "closetted". [summarized]


Study (from the Italian studiolo): A room, in a house or other building, set apart for private study, reading, writing, or the like. With its origins in requirements for increased privacy for reading and meditation engendered by the humanist avocation of many of the Italian noble and mercantile elite in the Quattrocento, the studiolo provided a retreat often reachable only through the, comparatively public, bedroom.


Although these terms are largely gender-neutral now, they were originally male-oriented quarters -- in contrast to the female boudoir.

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Dressing room, Closet, Walkin closet:

  • Morningside is an elegant five-bedroom home o.....The master bedroom features a dressing room with both his and hers en suites. Other amenities include ...

(www.telegraph.co.uk)

enter image description here

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    Is this what they mean by, "man-ing-up", Sixty-one?
    – user98990
    May 8, 2015 at 10:45
  • @Mitch I don't think so: my (UK English) dad had a (shared) bedroom but a private "dressing room".
    – ChrisW
    May 8, 2015 at 14:11

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