Have you ever been in a public restroom and seen a sign saying “John” on the door? Have you ever wondered why they would be labeled that particular name?
Why isn’t it called something more obvious, like a restroom or a washroom? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why a toilet is referred to as a “john” and uncover its mysterious origins. We’ll shed light on the name’s relevance in modern day society and why its use has both increased and decreased over the years.
So, let’s take a deep dive into why a toilet is called a john—it’s history and meaning has a much longer and more interesting backstory than you would probably expect!
Why is a Toilet Called a John?Toilets have been given a variety of names throughout the ages.
From “necessity stations” and “privies” to the less-formal “throne” or “loo,” the terms can vary depending on where you are in the world and when the device was invented. One of the more interesting and humorous monikers for the porcelain throne is “john. “
How the John Name Became Commonly UsedJohn seems to be one of the earlier nicknames to emerge in the Western world.
The term is reported to have originated in 15th century England, where it was used as a euphemism for the toilet. This phrase eventually became “jakes,” which is the Old English word for privy and was more commonly used in place of toilet.
The term “john” likely comes from “Jack,” meaning “man,” as the first generation of toilets (and public restroom fixtures in general) were mostly used by men. Public or business restrooms for women often had signs written in French that read “Ladies,” which then became Lady for English speakers.
When Did the Term “John” Begin to Be Used as a Toilet Name?
By the 18th century, “john” was in full use in England and the United States. This common exchange between individuals in a time before indoor plumbing served to humorously disguise the subject of discussion.
This provided some level of discretion and even social etiquette in regard to discussing bodily functions. It’s highly likely that the phrase “john” to become a full-fledged euphemism used to refer to a toilet as a whole. The phrase was commonplace enough to be used in literature and other published works.