We say hungry if someone wants to eat, thirsty if someone wants to drink, and sleepy if someone wants to sleep.

What's the adjective/slang used to describe a person who has a desire to go to the toilet urgently, other than "I want to take a piss/dump".

Do we have such a word in the casual day-to-day speech? I am looking for an informal word that can be used with friends.

  • What language has a single word for this?
    – tchrist
    Jun 18, 2020 at 13:31
  • 4
    'Bursting' was once used in very colloquial and near-childlike speech in the UK. "I'm bursting [for a pee]." I'd avoid it nowadays. Jun 18, 2020 at 13:33
  • I have to go. (Alternatively, and perhaps less genteel, "My eyeballs are floating.")
    – RobJarvis
    Jun 18, 2020 at 13:46
  • Well, I guess it's Depends.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 18, 2020 at 13:52
  • 1
    "I'm desperate" is sometimes used in Br English but only in context, for example "Where's the loo, I'm desperate". However the fuller phrases such as "I'm desperate for a pee" are more common without context. I do not believe that there is a true adjective equivalent to "hungry" or "thirsty". I'm also fairly sure that hunger and thirst are unusual in having adjectives that describe the condition of having an urgent need. There is, again to my knowledge, no simple adjective describing someone who is desperate for air.
    – BoldBen
    Jun 18, 2020 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


"Bursting" is used colloquially and widely in the part of the UK I come from. I strongly disagree with Edwin's assertion that it is "near-childlike".

"To be desperate for"is also widely used. https://www.reddit.com/r/britishproblems/comments/aacdwa/being_desperate_for_the_toilet_after_sitting_for/ https://www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/lifestyle/cars/drivers-risking-huge-fines-and-points-going-toilet-motorway-1422240#gsc.tab=0

  • Is it ok to say I'm so stuck? Where is the toilet? I heard it in an American movie.
    – user385505
    Jun 18, 2020 at 17:43
  • @acme - In British English it would mean nothing. In American English, according to Urban Dictionary, "I'm stuck" means "I'm tired" or under the influence of drugs. (Presumably because of being stuck with a needle when injecting drugs). urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Stuck Jun 18, 2020 at 19:04
  • "13 May 2016 - Eight of the 25 children (a third) used 'bursting' to describe how they felt regarding going to the toilet. 'Bursting' is a term generally used by children in Ireland when feeling urgency or on the verge of involuntary incontinence as opposed to “need to go” which is typically used for bladder fullness." by M Tatlow-Golden - ‎2017 ' [SAGE Journals] Jun 21, 2020 at 14:36

In US slang, there is (to be) busting and the verb bust is a variant of burst.

spec. To be desperate for the toilet. Chiefly with for or to. Also to be ready to bust. - OED

Apparently, it is still used in British slang also as OED provides examples from recent British publications. Here are the last two citations:

From Mixmag (a British electronic dance and clubbing magazine), 1994:

Rob was busting for a widdle the whole time, but when they eventually let him visit the can he was surrounded by a brace of coppers watching him.

From the book Lullaby by C. Seeber (a British author from London), 2007:

Can I just use your loo quickly? I'm busting.

I've also come across the phrase caught short which appears to be mainly used in Australian slang. OED definition:

To be caught by an urgent need to urinate or defecate, especially when there are no toilet facilities available.

Lexico mentions be caught short as British informal and provides the definition below, plus a funny example:

Urgently need to urinate or defecate.
'On one occasion, after being caught short during a particularly exciting match, he merrily urinated over the heads of the fans sitting below'

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