The other day I heard someone refer to a communicating door.

The OED does not have a specific entry for communicating door but the definition they give of the adjective communicating is affording communication.

Since all doors afford communication it leaves me puzzled, wondering what door could possibly not be a communicating door.

Does anyone see any legitimate value in the tern communicating door? And if so, what is it about them that is special?

One problem here is that being a composite term it does not appear in dictionaries and any Google or Wikipedia search is overwhelmed with information, pictures etc. from the play Communicating Doors by Alan Ayckbourn.

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    As a door directly between one room and another, it does not open onto a corridor, lobby or other common space. That's what makes it different. – Erik Kowal Jan 2 '16 at 20:00
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    Yep, simply a door between two rooms. Such as the door you sometimes see in motel rooms, to allow two adjacent rooms to be treated as a suite. – Hot Licks Jan 2 '16 at 20:19
  • Google "Communicating Doors" -Ayckbourn -theatre -theatrical -tickets – Hot Licks Jan 3 '16 at 1:00
  • @HotLicks You will see that I have edited my OP to include reference to Alan Ayckbourn. – WS2 Jan 3 '16 at 1:08
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    @WS2 - Which is why I posted my comment. With the deselectors you thin things out enough to get about 50% "hits" on "real" references to communicating doors. – Hot Licks Jan 3 '16 at 1:10

The essential feature of a communicating door is that it enables movement between two rooms without this movement being common knowledge. A communicating door allows privacy/secrecy.

  • I can award you the correct answer. But it is just that the term, to my mind, is a misnomer, since all doors allow for communication. A private door would seem to me to be a more accurate description. But I do accept that communicating door has acquired this meaning, albeit that such definition is not readily available. – WS2 Jan 3 '16 at 0:28

Technically, a communicating door is one that connects two rooms neither of which is a corridor, hallway, or anteroom.

That said, people normally use the term when they have two rooms whose functions are related, or the same, in mind, such as two bedrooms, two parlor rooms, two offices; or a study with an adjacent library, an office with a reception room, a dining room and kitchen, etc.

The concept must be relatively new: in ancient Rome, rooms were only accessible from hallways and most of them had curtains, not doors. Actual doors were few and far between. Romans (pagans and Christians alike) were far less inhibited than we are today. The obsession with doors and locks must be a medieval thing and may have something to do with poor hygiene and the attendant fear of appearing partially naked in front of others.

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    I was about to award you the correct answer, until I read your final sentence. So modesty, and hence doors, was inspired by the fear of catching something, was it? Where did you hear that? – WS2 Jan 2 '16 at 20:55
  • @WS2: It is a hypothesis of mine. Contracting something unpleasant in the age of the Black Death was one thing; another reason, even more prosaic, would be the odor. Modesty and prudery are two different things. The former is a lot more natural. I'd call it an idea, or suspicion, rather than a hypothesis, if I didn't know that the high levels of prudery, so ubiquitous up until the 20th century, began rapidly to decline with the advent of indoor plumbing. – Ricky Jan 2 '16 at 21:16
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    This answer would be much better without the highly speculative last paragraph. – David Richerby Jan 2 '16 at 22:46
  • @DavidRicherby: People would probably be much better off if they only communicated in grunts and lived in caves. But, damn it, some retard showed up and speculated that maybe using words might be an interesting development, and here we are. – Ricky Jan 2 '16 at 23:00
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    @Ricky Speculating about how we could improve the future is a very different thing from speculating about what actually happened in the past. And the question asks for the definition of a term, not for speculation about how the defined object came to be. – David Richerby Jan 2 '16 at 23:04

Communicating Doors refer to two doors that are back to back, usually with a shared door frame. These are predominantly found in adjoining hotel rooms that can be occupied by two separate guests or guests that rent both and want to be able to go between rooms without going out into the public hall - a room with parents and the adjoining room with their children for example. This does not refer to doors adjoining rooms within a suite. The doors can only be locked or unlocked from the room side but both sides of each door have opening hardware (a lever or knob).


Here is another use for communicating doors. We bought an old village house that had two sets of communicating doors. They have special door knobs to fit in the frame. One opens into one room and the other into the other room. That part of the house was used partially as a medical office and I believe the doctor opened the inner door when he was ready for the next patient or a patient would open it when she was dressed and ready to exit the exam room.


To pass through a set of communicating doors, both doors are under the sole locking/unlocking authority of the person occupying that door's associated room. In other words, both doors can only be unlocked from inside each room and thus each occupant can only open his/her own door requiring their mutual willingness for both doors to be open and to "communicate," as it were.

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