Why Is The Bathroom Called The Head?

Ever wondered why bathrooms or restroom are called head? Have you noticed that the names often used when referring to bathrooms such as lavatory or restroom, are quite obscure?

Few of us are familiar with the origin of the term “head” used when referring to a toilet. To get a better understanding, we have to go way back to the days of seafaring. Let’s explore how the term “head” was coined for toilet and find out why the bathroom is still called the head to this day.

Why is the Bathroom Called the Head?

The shipboard lavatory, also known as the latrine or the “head”, is an important but overlooked part of maritime history. It’s also a fascinating look into how language has evolved, and how everyday expressions have come to mean something totally different.

On land, the lavatory was known simply as the bathroom, but on a ship, it changed drastically in name, function, and design. Why is the bathroom called the head on ships, and why don’t land-based bathrooms carry the same moniker?

Let’s take a look!

The Evolution of “the Head”

The term “the head” first emerged on ships and boats of all sizes as a result of the Naval Act of 179

All vessels of the British Navy needed to commit to the same exact bathroom structure and layout, so the term “head” was used to describe it. Originally, the term was used to describe the front of the ship, where the bathroom was located in the frontmost part of the vessel. The poop deck, or the raised deck at the back of the ship, was where the helmsman controlled the rudder, so referring to the bathroom as the head made perfect sense.

Eventually, the “head” started to appear across all vessels, regardless of size or purpose. Even recreational sailboats used the term, and it’s even part of the official rules of sailing used in many modern-day races.

The Slang Behind the Name

There’s another reason why the term “the head” is so pervasive in maritime culture, and it has to do with how sailors talk.

Sailors were known for using slang words to describe certain objects and processes to make them more entertaining. As it turns out, the phrase “to go to the head” was originally used to describe the act of urinating, so the bathroom eventually became known as the “head”.

The term is still used today, and it’s a reminder of how language has evolved over time.

The Practicality of the Head

The “head” was also a popular choice because it was one of the only practical options for small ships. Outhouses and portable toilets were not suitable for ships, so the head became the de facto solution. The head was also much easier to clean than a regular bathroom. The design of the head was also relatively simple—it was typically a holding tank connected to a pipe running out the side of the ship. Because of this, it was much more hygienic than other options available at the time.


The term “the head” has been around for centuries and it’s still used to refer to the bathroom on ships and boats today. It’s a reminder of how language has evolved over time, and how everyday expressions can come to mean something entirely different. It also highlights how practical solutions often become more popular over time, as the “head” was the only viable option for many vessels. Citation URL: – https://blog. cannonau. org/why-is-the-bathroom-called-the-head/- https://weather. gc. ca/marine/rules_e. html- https://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/head

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