In common English vernacular, the word "lavatory" is considered interchangeable with the words "restroom" or "bathroom" when, in fact, it has a much different meaning. Similarly, the word "sink" is considered as either a part of a "lavatory" or separate entirely, which is also untrue. Both of these words have origins dating back hundreds of years and have only recently been considered removed from each other, when in fact they're much more closely related.
Etymology of "Sink"
First coined in the early 15th century, the word "sink" meant solely a pit or designated area for sewage. Of course, in the past century, the word has matured and is now defined as a fixed structure complete with basin and water supply. More commonly, a sink is located in kitchens and bathrooms as well as areas for public use such as restaurants and barrooms.
Etymology of "Lavatory"
It is surprising to learn that the word "lavatory" precedes "sink" by a century and originally meant "washbasin." It is derived from the Latin word "lavare" meaning "to wash" and meant almost exclusively hand and face washing. In current times, the word is used as synonymous with "bathroom," which is a far cry from it's original definition.
Other Points of Interest
Plumbers and specialists distinguish the "sinks" and "lavatories" in their own particular way as well. The water trap opening to a sink is required to be 1/4 inch larger than that of a lavatory, which effects water flow. Additionally, plumbers can also define "lavatories" by their bases. For instance, if the lavatory sits on top of a pedestal, the term "sink" could then be applied.
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