Chamber pot

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Japanese chamber pot from the Edo period Edo period chamber pot 2.jpg
Japanese chamber pot from the Edo period
Chamber pot in Westerwald ceramics, early 18th century. Archeological find from Bruges. Pispot, collectie Raakvlak, BR99-J-1B-87.jpg
Chamber pot in Westerwald ceramics, early 18th century. Archeological find from Bruges.

A chamber pot is a portable toilet, meant for nocturnal use in the bedroom. It was common in many cultures before the advent of indoor plumbing and flushing toilets.


Names and etymology

"Chamber" is an older term for bedroom. The chamber pot is also known as a Jordan, [1] [2] a jerry, a guzunder, a po (possibly from French : pot de chambre), a potty pot, a potty, a thunder pot or a thunder mug. It was also known as a chamber utensil or bedroom ware.


Chamber pots were used in ancient Greece at least since the 6th century BC and were known under different names: ἀμίς (amis), [3] οὐράνη (ouranē) [4] and οὐρητρίς (ourētris, [5] from οὖρον - ouron, "urine" [6] ), σκωραμίς / (skōramis), χερνίβιον (chernibion). [7]

The introduction of indoor flush toilets started to displace chamber pots in the 19th century, but they remained common until the mid-20th century. [8] The alternative to using the chamber pot was a trip to the outhouse.

In China, the chamber pot (便壶 (biàn hú) was common. A wealthy salt merchant in the city of Yangzhou became the symbol of conspicuous excess when he commissioned a chamber pot made of gold which was so tall that he had to climb a ladder to use it. [9]

Modern use

Plastic adult chamber pot Sturdy, durable, plastic potty of classic design.JPG
Plastic adult chamber pot

Chamber pots continue in use today in areas lacking indoor plumbing.

In the Philippines, chamber pots are used as urinals and are known as arinola in most Philippine languages, such as Cebuano [10] and Tagalog.

In Korea, chamber pots are referred to as yogang (요강). They were used by people who did not have indoor plumbing to avoid the cold elements during the winter months.

Children's potties

Simple plastic baby's potty Simple plastic potty.jpg
Simple plastic baby's potty

The term "potty" is used when discussing the toilet with small children, such as during potty training.[ clarification needed ] It is also usually used to refer to the small, toilet-shaped devices made especially for potty training, which are similar to chamber pots. These "potties" are generally a large plastic bowl with an ergonomically-designed back and front to protect against splashes. They may have a built-in handle or grasp at the back to allow easy emptying and a non-slip bottom to prevent the child from sliding while in use. Some are given bright colors, and others may feature gentle or unoffensive drawings or cartoon characters. In many cases they are used since it is difficult for children to maneuver themselves up onto the normal toilet; in addition the larger opening in the regular toilet is much too wide for a child to sit over comfortably and not fall in without some type of aid. Their size means they can be packed away in a bag for days out or when camping with young children, and can be placed near or under beds for sufferers of nocturia or some other form of incontinence.

A chamber pot might be disguised in a sort of chair (a close stool). It might be stored in a cabinet with doors to hide it; this sort of nightstand was known as a commode, hence the latter word came to mean "toilet" as well. For homes without these items of furniture, the chamber pot was stored under the bed.

The modern commode toilet and bedpan, used by bedbound or disabled persons, are variants of the chamber pot.

Cultural references

"The Crabfish" is a 17th century folk song about what is most likely a common lobster, stored in a chamber pot by an unwise fisherman. The moral of the song is that one should look into a chamberpot before using it.

Philippine mythology recounts that giving newlyweds a chamberpot assures them of prosperity. President Elpidio Quirino, as part of a smear campaign against him, was falsely rumoured to possess a golden arinola. [11]

Thomas More in his satire Utopia had chamberpots made out of gold.

See also

Related Research Articles

Thomas Crapper British businessman, plumber (died 1910)

Thomas Crapper was an English plumber and businessman. He founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London, a plumbing equipment company. His notability with regard to toilets has often been overstated, mostly due to the publication in 1969 of a fictional biography by satirist Wallace Reyburn.

Greywater Type of wastewater generated in households without toilet wastewater

Greywater refers to domestic wastewater generated in households or office buildings from streams without fecal contamination, i.e., all streams except for the wastewater from toilets. Sources of greywater include sinks, showers, baths, washing machines or dishwashers. As greywater contains fewer pathogens than domestic wastewater, it is generally safer to handle and easier to treat and reuse onsite for toilet flushing, landscape or crop irrigation, and other non-potable uses. Greywater may still have some pathogen content from laundering soiled clothing or cleaning the anal area in the shower or bath.

Bathroom Room for personal hygiene activities, such as showering

A bathroom or washroom is a room, typically in a home or other residential building, that contains either a bathtub or a shower. The inclusion of a wash basin is common. In some parts of the world e.g. India, a toilet is typically included in the bathroom; in others, the toilet is typically given a dedicated room separate from the one allocated for personal hygiene activities. In North American English the word 'bathroom' is sometimes used to refer to any room in a residence that contains a toilet, regardless of the inclusion of a bath or shower.

Flush toilet Toilet that uses water to convey human waste down a pipe

A flush toilet is a toilet that disposes of human waste by using the force of water to flush it through a drainpipe to another location for treatment, either nearby or at a communal facility, thus maintaining a separation between humans and their waste. Flush toilets can be designed for sitting or for squatting, in the case of squat toilets. Most modern sewage treatment systems are also designed to process specially designed toilet paper. The opposite of a flush toilet is a dry toilet, which uses no water for flushing.

Bidet Plumbing fixture or type of sink intended for washing the genitalia and anus of the human body

A bidet is a bowl or receptacle designed to be sat on in order to wash one's genitalia, perineum, inner buttocks, and anus. The modern variety has a plumbed-in water supply and a drainage opening, and is thus a plumbing fixture subject to local hygiene regulations. The bidet is designed to promote personal hygiene and is used after defecation, and before and after sexual intercourse. It can also be used to wash feet, with or without filling it up with water. In several European countries, a bidet is now required by law to be present in every bathroom containing a toilet bowl. It was originally located in the bedroom, near the chamber-pot and the marital bed, but in modern times is located near the toilet bowl in the bathroom. Fixtures that combine a toilet seat with a washing facility include the electronic bidet.

Nightstand Bedroom furniture

A nightstand, alternatively night table, bedside table, daystand or bedside cabinet, is a small table or cabinet designed to stand beside a bed or elsewhere in a bedroom. Modern nightstands are usually small bedside tables, often with one or sometimes more drawers and/or shelves and less commonly with a small door. They are often used to support items that might be useful during the night, such as a table lamp, alarm clock, reading matter, cell phone, eyeglasses, tissues, sex toys, a drink, or medication.

Bedroom Private room where people usually sleep for the night or relax during the day

A bedroom or bedchamber is a room situated within a residential or accommodation unit characterised by its usage for sleeping and sexual activity. A typical western bedroom contains as bedroom furniture one or two beds, a clothes closet, and bedside table and dressing table, both of which usually contain drawers. Except in bungalows, ranch style homes, or one-storey motels, bedrooms are usually on one of the floors of a dwelling that is above ground level.

Toilet training

Toilet training is the process of training someone, particularly a toddler or infant, to use the toilet for urination and defecation. Attitudes toward training in recent history have fluctuated substantially, and may vary across cultures and according to demographics. Many of the contemporary approaches to toilet training favor a behaviouralism- and cognitive psychology-based approach.


Garderobe is a historic term for a room in a medieval castle. The Oxford English Dictionary gives as its first meaning a store-room for valuables, but also acknowledges "by extension, a private room, a bed-chamber; also a privy".

Litter box Indoor pet feces and urine collection box

A litter box, sometimes called a sandbox, cat box, litter tray, cat pan, potty, pot or litter pan, is an indoor feces and urine collection box for cats, as well as rabbits, ferrets, miniature pigs, small dogs, and other pets that instinctively or through training will make use of such a repository. They are provided for pets that are permitted free roam of a home but who cannot or do not always go outside to excrete their metabolic waste. Many owners of these animals prefer not to let them roam outside for fear that they might succumb to outdoor dangers, whilst others prevent outdoor visits in order to avoid the potentially negative effect on local wildlife of cats. On average, indoor cats have a lifespan of 16.8 years while outdoor cats' lives are much shorter, only 5.6 years. These outdoor dangers include weather, wildlife, traffic or diseases such as the feline immunodeficiency virus.

Portable toilet Toilet that is easily moved around

A portable or mobile toilet is any type of toilet that can be moved around, some by one person, some by mechanical equipment such as a truck and crane. Most types do not require any pre-existing services or infrastructure, such as sewerage, but are completely self-contained. The portable toilet is used in a variety of situations, for example in urban slums of developing countries, at festivals, for camping, on boats, on construction sites, film locations, and large outdoor gatherings where there are no other facilities. Most portable toilets are unisex single units with privacy ensured by a simple lock on the door. Some portable toilets are small molded plastic or fiberglass portable rooms with a lockable door and a receptacle to catch the human excreta in a container.

Commode Type of furniture (or toilet)

A commode is any of many pieces of furniture. The Oxford English Dictionary has multiple meanings of "commode". The first relevant definition reads: "A piece of furniture with drawers and shelves; in the bedroom, a sort of elaborate chest of drawers ; in the drawing room, a large kind of chiffonier." The drawing room is itself a term for a formal reception room, and a chiffonier is, in this sense, a small sideboard dating from the early 19th century.

Public toilet A room or building with toilets available for use by the general public

A public toilet, restroom, public bathroom or washroom is a room or small building with toilets and sinks for use by the general public. The facilities are available to customers, travelers, employees of a business, school pupils and prisoners and are commonly separated into male and female toilets, although some are unisex, especially for small or single-occupancy public toilets.

Composting toilet Type of toilet that treats human excreta by a biological process called composting

A composting toilet is a type of dry toilet that treats human waste by a biological process called composting. This process leads to the decomposition of organic matter and turns human waste into compost-like material. Composting is carried out by microorganisms under controlled aerobic conditions. Most composting toilets use no water for flushing and are therefore called "dry toilets".

Room Distinguishable space within a building or other structure

In a building or large vehicle, like a ship, a room is any space enclosed within a number of walls to which entry is possible only by a door or other dividing structure that connects it either to a passageway, to another room, or to the outdoors, that is large enough for several persons to move about, and whose size, fixtures, furnishings, and sometimes placement within the building or ship support the activity to be conducted in it.

Close stool Early type of portable toilet

A close stool was an early type of portable toilet, made in the shape of a cabinet or box at sitting height with an opening in the top. The external structure contained a pewter or earthenware chamberpot to receive the user's excrement and urine when they sat on it; this was normally covered (closed) by a folding lid. "Stool" has two relevant meanings: as a type of seat and as human feces. Close stools were used from the Middle Ages until the introduction of the indoor flush toilet.

Toilet Piece of hardware for the collection or disposal of human excreta

A toilet is a piece of sanitary hardware that collects human urine and feces, and sometimes toilet paper, usually for disposal. Flush toilets use water, while dry or non-flush toilets do not. They can be designed for a sitting position popular in Europe and North America with a toilet seat, with additional considerations for those with disabilities, or for a squatting posture more popular in Asia. In urban areas, flush toilets are usually connected to a sewer system that leads to septic tanks in isolated areas. The waste is known as blackwater and the combined effluent including other sources is sewage. Dry toilets are connected to a pit, removable container, composting chamber, or other storage and treatment device, including urine diversion with a urine-diverting toilet.

Toilet (room) Room for privately accessing a toilet, and often handwashing basin

A toilet is a small room used for privately accessing the sanitation fixture (toilet) for urination and defecation. Toilet rooms often include a sink (basin) with soap for handwashing, as this is important for personal hygiene. These rooms are typically referred to as "half-bathrooms".

Sulabh International Museum of Toilets Museum in New Delhi, India

The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in Delhi is run by the Sulabh International, dedicated to the global history of sanitation and toilets. According to Time magazine, the museum is one of the weirdest museums among the "10 museums around the world that are anything but mundane". It was established in 1992 by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, a social activist, founder of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement, recipient of national and international awards including the Stockholm Water Prize in 2009. His objective in establishing this museum was to highlight the need to address the problems of the sanitation sector in the country, considering the efforts made in various parts of the world in this field since the third millennium BC.

Asín tibuok is a rare Filipino artisanal sea salt from the Boholano people made from filtering seawater through ashes. A variant of the salt is also known as túltul or dúkdok among the Ilonggo people. It is made similarly to asín tibuok but is boiled with gatâ.


  1. "jordan". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1989.
  2. "Shakespeare's World in a 100 Objects: Number 1, a "jordan"".
  3. chamber ἀμίς . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  4. οὐράνη  in Liddell and Scott.
  5. οὐρητρίς  in Liddell and Scott.
  6. οὖρον  in Liddell and Scott.
  7. χερνίβιον  in Liddell and Scott.
  8. Dahl, Roald (1984). Boy: Tales of Childhood. Penguin Group. p. 80. ISBN   9780698161870.
  9. Ping-Ti Ho, "The Salt Merchants of Yang-Chou: A Study of Commercial Capitalism in Eighteenth-Century China," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 17.1/2 (1954): 130-168.
  10. Wolff, John U. (1972). "arinúla". A Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan. p. 56.
  11. Ocampo, Ambeth (9 March 2010). "'Mambo Magsaysay' and Quirino's golden 'orinola". Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 26 September 2013.