Is this toilet:

enter image description here

Or maybe this (room):

enter image description here

Or should I just use "a toilet" and "the toilet".

I found similar question but it doesn't answer my question.

  • 'toilet' almost always refers to the first object, the one you sit on. Your second person would almost never be referred to as 'toilet' except very tenuously by metonymy. The second picture is called a 'bathroom'. A room may be called a 'toilet' in BrE if it includes only a toilet (the appliance) and maybe a sink.
    – Mitch
    Dec 19, 2015 at 17:47
  • 2
    If someone says "I need to pee" then you can say "Go use the bathoom OR toilet." If someone says "I need to shower" then you would not say "Go use the toilet"
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 19, 2015 at 20:31
  • 3
    Just to confuse things, a seldom used meaning of "toilet" is the process of getting clean and/or "presentable."
    – WGroleau
    Dec 20, 2015 at 1:18
  • 1
    @Mitch In my house, there's no toilet in the bathroom; it's in a separate room. It would be ridiculous to refer to the room with a toilet in it a "bathroom". The room with the bath in it is called that already.
    – Glen_b
    Dec 20, 2015 at 9:59
  • 2
    "I found similar question but it doesn't answer my question." What is your question? Dec 20, 2015 at 10:58

4 Answers 4


They are both "a toilet" (though I believe that to Americans the latter is "a bathroom", and would be even if it didn't have a bath in it) . The use of the article is not relevant: like most common words in English (and probably in other languages) the word "toilet" has multiple meanings.

  • 5
    People refer to bathrooms as toilets? I've heard "Going to to toilet", but that's referring to the toilet inside of the bathroom. The fact that you need to go into the bathroom to use it is implicit. Dec 19, 2015 at 20:05
  • 4
    Disagree. If the room has a bath or shower in it, the room itself is never called a "toilet" in either US or UK usage. Obviously you'd still direct someone to that room if they asked "Where's the toilet?"
    – Roddy
    Dec 19, 2015 at 22:40
  • 1
    No, I don't think anybody refers to bathrooms as toilets. But Americans (and, now, some Brits) refer to toilets (rooms with apparatus but no bath) as bathrooms.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 21, 2015 at 18:21
  • If there is no shower or bathtub, Americans would call is - a half-bathroom.
    – Beqa
    Aug 26, 2022 at 16:59

"Toilet" originally referred to a piece of cloth upon which one laid out clothes while dressing, then the table used for this purpose. Over time it came to mean a dressing room in which was likely a wash basin for bathing before dressing.

It would have been natural to stash the "chamber pot" in this room, and hence the word acquired the meaning of being a place where one would urinate and defecate. From there the word was transferred to the mechanical appliance used to facilitate these actions.

(It should be noted that there is not really a word to identify the porcelain appliance or the room containing it that is not a euphemism of some sort. Perhaps "water closet" comes closest to being a "true" term, but it still is tip-toeing around the issue.)

With regard to using the term, "toilet" (in the US), absent any context, would generally be taken to mean the porcelain appliance, with the room containing it being "the bathroom" (when in a home) or "the restroom" (when in a public building). However, if you were to ask someone "Where's the toilet?" you would (unless you asked a joker) be directed to the nearest bathroom/restroom, even if there were, eg, a porcelain appliance on display in a store ten feet away.

As to "a" vs "the", either may be appropriate, depending on context. As I said, it's normal to ask "Where's the toilet?", even in a large building where there are likely several restrooms, but asking "Where's a toilet?" would not be regarded as particularly "odd".

  • I can think of a term to identify the appliance that is not euphemistic: the shitter. But this really only underscores your point.
    – zwol
    Dec 20, 2015 at 2:58
  • "Where's the toilet?" implies that the questioner is looking for the nearest functioning toilet, presumably the only such toilet in the area or building. In the US, "Where's a toilet?" sort of implies that the questioner doesn't care whose toilet they're about to violate, and that any old toilet will do. This may come across as rude or crass, not to mention odd. People almost always ask for directions to "the toilet", "the restroom", or "the bathroom".
    – Dr. Funk
    Jan 13, 2016 at 22:42

"A toilet" and "the toilet" are correct.

The second picture is a bathroom, which contains a toilet (or, the toilet).

You could also use the word "bowl" after "toilet" – a toilet bowl, the toilet bowl.

  • + for "toilet bowl". I was wondering how can I say for example "toilet bowl is dirty" not "toilet (room) is dirty)"
    – Peter
    Dec 19, 2015 at 18:48
  • Use the definite article "the". The toilet bowl in the bathroom is dirty. Hope this helps.😊 Dec 19, 2015 at 19:14
  • @Peter- please don’t refer to the room as the toilet except for when you say, “I need to go to the toilet”, otherwise refer to it as “the bathroom’ (at least in AmE) This eliminates the need to disamibiguate the room from the fixture.
    – Jim
    Dec 19, 2015 at 19:18
  • 4
    The bowl is only part of the toilet, which also features tank, pedestal, flush mechanism, and hinged seat with lid (though if you purchase "a toilet" be prepared to purchase the seat and cover assembly separately, plus possibly an installation kit with a flexible hose connector for water inflow, and a wax ring for sealing the outflow). Products sold as bowl cleaners are primarily meant for application to the inside of the bowl only. Dec 19, 2015 at 19:28
  • The term "stool" is sometimes used to refer to the porcelain appliance, or at least the bottom half of it. This is particularly true in the building trades, since "toilet" is too ambiguous. However, "stool" is also sometimes used to refer to the solid matter that may be deposited in said appliance, so there is still ambiguity.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 19, 2015 at 22:21

The OED defines toilet as:

A dressing-room; in U.S. esp. a dressing-room furnished with bathing facilities. Hence, a bath-room, a lavatory; (contextually), a lavatory bowl or pedestal; a room or cubicle containing a lavatory.

so depending on the context, it can mean either. The usually implies the context of a bath-room or lavatory, where as a usually implies the context of lavatory bowl.

  • 1
    So according to OED a toilet doesn't contain a toilet.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 20, 2015 at 14:30
  • 1
    Indeed, it contains a lavatory which OED says is a euphemisms for toilet and In [some cases...] elliptically for the appliance itself.
    – Paul Evans
    Dec 20, 2015 at 14:39
  • Except that in the US lavatory means either a room with a washstand (and likely an "appliance") or the washstand itself. The literal meaning of lavatory is "washing place". (Odd that OED resists finding an unambiguous term for the "appliance".)
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 20, 2015 at 15:21
  • OED has that as well - I filtered the toilet stuff out from all that.
    – Paul Evans
    Dec 20, 2015 at 15:24

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.