Why do us Brits call a downstairs toilet a cloakroom?

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Surely a cloakroom is a place for storing coats and boots, not for going to the toilet?

It seems that in early Victorian times a pioneering and fashionable move made by some upmarket establishments, such as restaurants, was to offer indoor facilities to ladies on arrival to enable them to freshen up. This was a room where upon arrival ladies could remove their outer coat (or cloak) and freshen up. It was called the ‘ladies cloak room’. Over time, of course similar facilities began being offered to men and the phrase appears to have gradually morphed into ‘cloakroom’ and used to describe a room where there is a toilet, basin and mirror area designed primarily for visiting guests.

Even in these modern times, we think it does sound a bit nicer than toilet. Say the word “toilet” and it’s hard not to conjure up a somewhat private bodily function if you think about it for more than a second or two (especially now that we’ve said that!). Cloakroom however, even after a few seconds of thought, feels much more about a small, private, hidden away room.

Cloakroom is of course not the only euphemism us polite Brits use for a toilet. Lavatory, Loo, Ladies Room, Powder Room, The Facilities, WC and our personal favourite The Smallest Room In The House are all popular too.

Can you think of any more and what’s your favourite British euphemism for the toilet?

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