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Difference Between Restroom and Bathroom

Restrooms are public facilities with toilets and basins. Bathrooms most often describe private facilities containing a bath and/or shower, toilet, and basin. Sometimes, "bathroom" can be used to refer to a public toilet/basin facility or a room with only bathing facilities and no toilet.

Difference Between Restroom and Bathroom: Overview

Both a restroom and a bathroom are often referred to when one needs to go and “do their business” as both these rooms have the necessary sanitary facilities.

While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are some differences that distinguish one from the other.

A bathroom indicates a space that has not only a toilet but also facilities in which one can bathe, such as a shower or a bathtub. A restroom is usually only comprised of a toilet and a basin to wash your hands.

What is a Restroom?

Restroom Origins

The term “restroom” was originally coined in the early 1900s. It referred to a room in a public place with one or more toilets and hand wash basins for people to use. It is extremely unlikely to find a restroom that has bathing facilities as well.

Public restroom with marble tiles on walls

The term ‘restroom’ may seem a bit strange if you really think about it. No one would actively choose to rest or relax in such a space. However, when you take a look back, the reasoning becomes quite clear.

The “rest” part came in because, back when these areas were first created, it was common to find comfortable couches or chairs positioned right outside or in the same room as the sanitary facilities and basins.

This occurred in public places such as movie theatres or upscale restaurants.

How Is the Term Used Today?

Today, it is really rare to find a restroom that has a space for its occupants to sit down comfortably. You may find stylish sofas in really high-end restaurants or clubs, but it is not typical.

Otherwise, modern restrooms have not changed in what they refer to. They are still rooms that are found in public places—nowadays, these include malls, parks, and theatres. And the public can still expect to find a single toilet or multiple cubicles along with wash stations.

If you look at the signage in restaurants and other public facilities, you will more often than not see the rooms referred to as restrooms.

Some people may refer to any type of toilet-containing domestic or public facility as a restroom because they consider it to be a more polite term than some of the others. The term “powder room” is used similarly.

Differences in Term Use Around the World

While it may be a general consensus that a restroom is simply a room in a public place where people can find a toilet and basin, the term can differ around the world.

In the US, you will likely hear “restroom” being used.

Such facilities are more likely to be called “washrooms” in Canada.

In the Philippines, they use the term “comfort room” for a public toilet facility.

The British tend to use a variety of terms, such as “water closet”, “lavatory”, or “loo”. They may also call these facilities a toilet. These are all interchangeable terms for a room with a toilet and a basin, and an absence of a shower or bathtub.

What is a Bathroom?

Bathroom Origins

Unlike the present day, many centuries ago, activities such as using the toilet or getting dressed and ready were done in different rooms. 

Therefore, a “bathroom” originally referred to a room where bathing took place. There were no toilet facilities in these rooms.

Right at its debut, the term “bathroom” was actually given to a public facility like in ancient Rome where the upper-class people would gather to bathe, similarly to the way that we use public pools today. Yes, you bathed there, but there was a certain social aspect to it as well.

With the 16th century plague outbreak in Europe, people stopped using public bathrooms in an effort to contain the spread of infection, and bathrooms became private sites within the home to clean themselves.

How Is the Term Used Today?

In the modern day, the term “bathroom” is agreed to be a room that contains a bath or shower, as well as a sink and a toilet. These are also found in private rooms in a home.

Modern bathroom with shower, sink and toilet with wood and black accent

Some public spaces still make use of the term, even if they don’t necessarily have bathing facilities. In this context, the term then refers to a room comprising of a toilet and usually a sink.

Differences in Term Use Around the World

In Canada, the US, and Britain, bathrooms are private, in-home rooms containing a bath and/or shower, toilet, and sink. Sometimes you may hear them referred to as “lavatories” in the US and Canada or “loos” in the UK.

In Australia, the term stays more to its origins, referring to a room with only bathing or showering facilities. It is possible for these rooms to contain a toilet, but this is not the most common configuration that earns the name of “bathroom”.

Table of Differences Between Restrooms and Bathrooms

Contains a bath/shower?NoYes (except when used in public places)
Contains a toilet?YesYes (except in Australia)
Contains a basin?YesYes
Public or private?Public (usually) Private
Different meanings in different locations?NoSame meaning in America, Canada, and the UK. Slightly different in Australia.
Meaning in America?A public space with one or more toilets and basins.A room found in the home that comprises a bathtub and/or shower, sink, and toilet.


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