Date: Thu, 16 Feb 1995 08:27:12 -0700


Subject: Re: jakes

Is anyone familiar with the use of the term "jakes" (or "jake" or "jake

house") to mean a privy or a toilet? The OED has it from c1530 on, but

almost all of DARE's contemporary evidence for it comes from Roman Catholic

clergymen! Is it more widespread than that? If you know it, please tell me

where and when you heard it. Thanks.

I have never heard the word (I live in Salt Lake City), but I checked

three dictionaries to see whether it appeared in any of them. It is

listed in all three (Merriam Webster's Collegiate, Tenth Edition; AHD,

Third Edition; and the latest edition of Webster's New World). I'm

sure that the Random House members of this group can tell us whether

it is also listed in their dictionary and (possibly?) even share with us

some of the information from their citation files.

Merriam Webster's Collegiate gives 1538 as the date of origin, defines

it simply as "privy," and says that the word perhaps comes from the French


The AHD says that the word is chiefly British, defines it as "a latrine;

a privy," and also states that it perhaps originated from "Jacques."

Webster's New World says that the word comes from "Jacques" (no "perhaps"

given), with the additional comment that it is "now chiefly dial[ectal]."

It defines the word as "an outdoor toilet; privy."

-Bruce Gelder