More Adventures in Etymology: ‘Boudoir’ and ‘Powder Room’

No business like itSome of you may think that adventure and etymology should never appear in the same sentence. If so, you’re reading the wrong blog.

I was doing some research for work when I came across the etymology for boudoir. The strict definition of boudoir is “a woman’s private sitting room, dressing room, or bedroom,” but refers to any room where one can retire in comfort and privacy and perhaps entertain close friends.

You probably guessed that boudoir is French origin, but do you know which French word it comes from? Bouder, to pout or sulk. So a boudoir is a room where a lady can go and pout in privacy.

It’s also apparently a kind of photography (which I knew but somehow forgot). So it’s also pictures of scantily clad women posing and pouting.

Then I wondered, Is that where we get powder room? I had always assumed it came from the idea of a woman powdering her nose, but then I thought maybe powder was a corruption of pouter.

Nope. Powder room indeed comes from the euphemistic idea of women delicately applying powder and makeup rather than pissing and shitting. It also used to refer to “the room in a ship in which gunpowder is kept.”

Scantily clad women, bathroom humor, and gunpowder. I told you it would be an adventure.

Comments are closed.