I am writing a story in a medieval world of fantasy, and today a little girl is trapped next to her brother in a hole.

The girl has to go to the bathroom, but I do not know how to be someone that age and at that time I would tell a rescuer that she needs to go to the bathroom.

Is there any difference to how it is today? Is there something I should avoid?

  • 5
    Just a guess, would probably depend on class. An upper class girl might say she needed a chamber pot. A peasant would probably just say she needed to piss! They weren't so coy in those days! ;-)
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 21:47
  • 6
    This might be more suitable for Linguistics, Writing or English Language. Anyway, why not "I have to pee/poo"? Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 21:48
  • 2
    Medieval world? She might say she has to visit the latrine. Or "alleviate herself". Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 23:15
  • 1
    In the old time rural USA people would probably say they had to go to the outhouse, which is where the latrine would be. Which could be very uncomfortable in bad whether. There were probably also outhouses in backyards in cities. Medieval Europeans who had similar arrangements would probably mention the outhouse or whatever they called it. So for historic realism in your medieval fantasy, find out about the facilities in Medieval manor houses, peasant households, town houses, monasteries, etc.
    – MAGolding
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 4:10
  • 7
    The term "bathroom", when used for the location where someone goes to relieve themselves is generally regarded as an American term. Other English speaking countries, have until recently used terms such as a water closet (or WC), or simply "the toilet". In such countries, the bathroom is where people go to wash/bathe/shower & usually bathrooms in such countries do not contain toilets (bowels) & cisterns. For whatever reason, most of the Americans I've met tend to regard the term "toilet" as being vulgar.
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


As with today, there were many different terms used in medieval times and what a little girl would have said would have depended very much on her upbringing / social background and perhaps the immediate environment in which she found herself.

She could just use the verb piss as it was not considered vulgar until circa. 1760. Here are a few possibilities (nouns) where she could go (this is one verb used with at least some of the nouns below):

  • go to siege, presumably related to the French siege, meaning 'seat', and probably used by those of high social standing such as knights. The use of siege is also mentioned in Christopher Coredon & Ann Williams, A Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases).
  • privy, as in "it would be more decent to go to the common privies of the city", from an incident in 1307 when a king's groom was confronted by two Londoners for urinating on a side street. The use of privy dates back to around 1225. The Dominican monk Felix Faber of Ulm, writing about his travels as a pilgrim between 1480 and 1483, advises fellow pilgrims to "go to the privies three or four times every day" (cited in The Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet by Julie L. Horan). John Lydgate, in Pilgrimage of the Life of Man (translated from the French c.1475), mentions "goyng to pryvee".
  • she might ask for a chambre coi (chamber pot) (OFr. coi < L quietus = quiet, at rest). Chamber pots were also known as originals, jerrys and pisse-pots.

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Medieval Chamber Pot (1300-1500), Yorkshire Museum collection

  • easement room or chamber of easement, a euphemism of the time.
  • longaigne (in a castle), "usually opening directly into a ditch below...being always open to the outside, they were a weak point of defence during a siege"
  • rere-dorter, meaning literally 'at the rear of the dormitory' in, for example, a monastery. It was sometimes referred to as necessarium (the necessary).
  • necessary house (nidhus). One such was built by Henry I's wife Matilda; it emptied into the Thames.
  • garderobe, "small room for keeping robes and clothing. Later, it was used euphemistically of a privy or latrine; these were sometimes built into a thick wall, directly above a moat."
  • pissyngholes, a colloquialism cited with reference to toilets in York over the Ouse bridge.
  • gong-hus "Lit. ‘going-house’". The use of the words gong and gang date back to at least the high middle ages with one meaning being go (verb) and a going (noun). Chaucer mentions a commune gong in the Canterbury Tales. The Anglo-Saxons had many variants using gong or gang:

a gangpytt (‘going-pit’), gangeen (‘going place’), gangsetl (‘going-seat’), and gangtun (‘going-yard’), or an utgang (‘outgoing’), forthgang, and earsgang (‘arse-going’).

Source: David Crystal, 'Words in Time and Place: Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary' (2014)

  • chamber foreign. "This is foreign in the sense of ‘out of doors’. Within a few years of its first recorded usage, we see it abbreviated to foreign (1303). Chaucer, in The Legend of Good Women (c.1385), describes a tower that ‘was joining in the wall to a foreign’ (line 1962, in the story of Ariadne)."

Unless Shakespeare (writing in the early modern period) used an anachronism, water was used in the middle ages to refer to urine; this appears in his play Henry IV (d. 1413). Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745) is cited by Samuel Johnson, "Go to bed, after you have made water", but I can't confirm if this was used in medieval times.

  • 3
    Wow, I learn a lot today!!!
    – Sobyro
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 18:01

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