I need a word for a restroom that does not have running water - where there is a pit toilet or a composting toilet instead of a flush toilet. If it were detached from a house, I am sure it would be called an outhouse. What is it called when it is in the house?

So the function of the room is the same as a restroom, it is the room where you would go to relieve oneself, but the facilities in the room are incongruous with the present definition of a restroom.

I am sure that people had such room prior to the invention of plumbing, but I cannot find any mention of it.

We have created such a room in our house for when the electric is out - which means we do not have water as we are on an electric well. But we are at a loss as to what to call it because it is definitely not a restroom.

  • I think that before the invention of plumbing, pit toilets were carefully build outside. They used chamber pots inside.
    – user 66974
    Nov 5, 2019 at 22:32
  • 4
    I suggest garderobe. The medieval toilet was an indoor room, without modern facilities. Also see Wikipedia. Nov 5, 2019 at 22:37
  • @WeatherVane - you certainly need a castle to have a garderobe.
    – user 66974
    Nov 5, 2019 at 22:40
  • 1
    @user067531 everyone's home is their castle. Nov 5, 2019 at 22:41
  • @WeatherVane - yes, medieval times, though, are a bit far back.
    – user 66974
    Nov 5, 2019 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


Latrine can be used to describe such a room. By itself, latrine can refer to something either indoors or outdoors (e.g. Mediterranean, Malta or undulant fever, 1897 uses it to mean either, mostly hand-flushed), with outdoors being more likely for obvious reasons.

A bit more unambiguous is indoor latrine:

If you had to go to the bathroom, there was an indoor latrine, half a flight down. You would go in, take the wooden cover off a hole and sit on it. —Intrigue, Capitalism, Love: My True Story


Privy gives the sense of having a room with a non-mechanical toilet. While this is often a synonym for outhouse, the description doesn't contain the notion of being outside, so it retains its validity for an indoor model.

The usage derives from its being a place of privacy to do one's business.

Toilet also has validity here. The room can be named for the appliance whether it's a flush toilet or not. Interestingly the word derives from:

French toilette cloth on which items used for grooming are placed, from Middle French, piece of batiste, from diminutive of toile cloth.

  • 2
    Lexico gives: A toilet located in a small shed outside a house or other building. Nov 5, 2019 at 22:48
  • @WeatherVane Sure. Because that's where most are located. As I said, usually a synonym for outhouse. But it's original sense derives from being a place of privacy.
    – David M
    Nov 5, 2019 at 22:50
  • Yes, privy is appropriate for the time before flush toilets became the norm. Incidentally, in British English the primary meaning of outhouse is just a shed; we would say outside lavatory/toilet/loo. Nov 6, 2019 at 9:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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