AskDefine | Define bathhouse

Dictionary Definition



1 a building containing dressing rooms for bathers [syn: bathing machine]
2 a building containing public baths [syn: bagnio]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a building with baths for communal use
  2. a building where swimmers change clothes

Extensive Definition

Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness. Often the term public is misleading to some people, as they will have restrictions based upon who can use the facility — elite members of the culture, men only, religious only. As societies advance, public baths often disappear as private washing stations become possible, or they become incorporated into the social system and now are 'meeting places'.

Cultures and Countries


In the late 1790s ritual, and elite baths were available, but it wasn't until the mid 1800s that Englands first true public bath house was opened (in Liverpool). This was individual (washing), or men's only (swimming) however, and it wasn't until 1914 that family bathing was allowed.
The introduction of bath houses into British culture was a response to public's desire for increased sanitary conditions, and by 1915 most towns in the country had at least one.

Greece, Ancient

In The Book of the Bath, Françoise de Bonneville wrote, "The history of public baths begins in Greece in the sixth century B.C.," where men and women washed in basins near places of exercise, physical and intellectual. Later gymnasia had indoor basins set overhead, the open maws of marble lions offering showers, and circular pools with tiers of steps for lounging. Bathing was ritualized, becoming an art -- of cleansing sands, hot water, hot air in dark vaulted "vapor baths," a cooling plunge, a rubdown with aromatic oils. Cities all over Ancient Greece honored sites where "young ephebes stood and splashed water over their bodies."

Rome, Ancient

The first public thermae of 19 BC had a rotunda 25 meters across, circled by small rooms, set in a park with artificial river and pool. By AD 300 the Baths of Diocletian would cover 1.5 million square feet (140,000 m²), its soaring granite and porphry sheltering 3,000 bathers a day. Roman baths became "something like a cross between an aquacentre and a theme park," with pools, game rooms, gardens, even libraries and theatres. One of the most famous public bath sites is Aquae Sulis in Bath, England.

Ottoman Empire, Ancient

During the Ottoman Empire public baths were widely used. The baths had both a religious and popular origin deriving from the Qur'an (ablution ritual) and the use of steamrooms by the Turks.

Japan, Ancient

In Japan, nude communal bathing for men, women, and children at the local unisex public bath, or sentō, was a daily fact of life until the mid-1800s and an increase in Western influence.


In contemporary times, many administrative regions require public baths to have separate facilities for males and females. Public baths using water from onsen, hot springs, are particularly popular. Towns with hot springs are destination resorts, wherein it is visited daily by the locals and from other neighboring towns.

Famous Baths

Public Baths in Different Cultures


External links

bathhouse in German: Badehaus
bathhouse in Hebrew: בית מרחץ
bathhouse in Japanese: 公衆浴場
bathhouse in Dutch: Badhuis
bathhouse in Russian: Баня
bathhouse in Swedish: Badhus
bathhouse in Ukrainian: Лазня

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bagnio, balneae, balneum, bath, bathroom, baths, caldarium, lavatory, mikvah, public baths, rest room, sauna, spa, steam room, sudarium, sudatorium, sweat room, tepidarium, thermae, washroom, watering place
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