Spell-check won't recognize that "humour" is a word. It's the British variation, but that's a future story. Okay. The etymology of bathroom seems obvious at first sight; it's a portmanteu of bath and room, both of which are household words everyone knows. But where did those words come from? Bath came from Proto-Indo-European and meant "to warm". It then traveled through a large number of Germanic languages until it landed in English as bæð, or "to immerse in water". This is not surprising, because people would try and warm themselves in water if they were chilly. Though this verb form evolved into bathe, a gerund form also popped up, followed by the noun in bathroom today. Room also comes from Proto-Indo-European, from the word reue, or "open space". This eventually came to mean a space in general, and since a room is a space to do stuff in, Germanic and Slavic languages picked it up with its current meaning. The English word was originally rum, but it got changed (presumably to prevent associations with alcohol?) In 1780, these words were finally combined into one. Next time your bowels call? Go to a warm space.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd