Why Do We Call a Marine Toilet As a Head?

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Why Do We Call a Marine Toilet As a Head?


The word head, for long, has stood for the marine toilet. The word was first used at least as early as 1708 by Woodes Rogers (English privateer and Governor of the Bahamas) in his book, A Cruising Voyage Around the World. Another early usage is in Tobias Smollett's novel of travel and adventure, Roderick Random (1748).

The origin of the word dates back to the sailing ships, when there were usually two heads on board. Head as a nautical term refers to the bow of the ship (1485). The two heads were located on each side of the bowsprit overlooked only by the figurehead at the head of the ship. Such a figurehead was considered to bring luck to the crew. A common figurehead was a beautiful woman. A hypothesis exists that the word head came from a Roman galley, where the prow with the armor and battering ram was sometimes referred to as the beakhead. Thus, the term head is a shortened beakhead.

FYI: The Captain of the ship was above a common practice of relieving himself in the head at the bow of the ship. He used his own private toilet below the poop deck beside his cabin.


The heads were located at the bow for several reasons:

The smell would be blown away from the deck of the ship by the following winds, that were blew from the stern to the bow, as the ship sailed before the wind.

Constantly splashing seawater upwards, waves could wash the toilet area thus keeping it and the nearby area clean.

Lee Head
When sailing in rough seas or windy conditions, the sailors used the lee side head to stop the accumulation of waste sticking to the sides of the bow.

Forecastle Head
Later, a forecastle head was built under the forecastle deck. It was first a sail and rope store, but some of the sailors preferred to sleep and mess here rather than down below. So as a matter of convenience, the heads were built in their location being handy for them to use.

Теги: head marine toilet | origin of head marine toilet | why do we call marine toilet a head | why is a marine toilet called a head | история английских слов | происхождение английских слов


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