Why is the Toilet Called a 'Loo'?

When you tell someone you’re just going to the ‘loo,’ do you ever stop to wonder why a toilet is called a ‘loo’?

Probably not, but we bet we’ve got you thinking about it now…

So, why is a toilet called a ‘loo’? And where did the word come from?

Well, no one knows with any certainty about where the word originated from, but fortunately, there are plenty of theories that surround the loo origin. We’re going to explore three of those theories below.

The first potential origin of the word ‘loo’ refers to the interjection, ‘gardyloo.’ ‘Gardyloo’ comes from ‘gardez-vous de l’eau’ which is French for “watch out for the water!”. In medieval times, servants would empty chamber pots from the upstairs windows into the street. Instead of letting those below get covered in a torrent of wee and poo, they would shout ‘gardyloo!’ as a warning to move out of the way. However, by the time the word ‘loo’ become entangled in everyday language, the phrase ‘gardyloo’ was no longer in use, and a far more functional and hygienic toileting system was in place. Thank goodness!

The second possible origin of the word ‘loo’ comes from the French word ‘le lieu,’ which means ‘the place.’ It is what the French called an indoor toilet, but unfortunately, there is not a lot of evidence to support this theory.

The third possible origin of the word ‘loo’ (and the most likely theory), relates to Waterloo, a trading name. The trade name Waterloo was prominently displayed on several iron cisterns in British outhouses during the early 20th century and is likely to have undergone a genericization process. Waterloo would have been quickly shortened to ‘loo,’ and because of its popularity, the brand name may have become associated with the generic class of the product itself. Many brands have fallen victim to this process, including Google, whose name has been turned into a verb and means “to look something up on the internet,” regardless of what search engine is used.

So, there you have it! While we may likely never know the exact origin of the word ‘loo,’ we can at least be fortunate that our toileting systems are far more superior today than they were in medieval times.

For more information and guidance on our modern portable toilets, contact Australian Portable Toilets at sales@portabletoilets.com.au or call 1800 POO WEE.