1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Toilet

TOILET, the process or operation of dressing, also dress and its appurtenances, also applied, especially in the French form “toilette,” to a particular costume worn by a lady. The word is adapted from French toilette, a diminutive of toile, cloth, Latin tela, web, woven cloth, from root of texere, to weave; this word survives in the English “toils,” net, snare.[1] The earliest use of “toilet” and toilette is for a cloth, usually of linen or other fine material spread over a table when used to hold the looking-glass and all the other articles used in dressing, or for a small sheet or cloth thrown over the shoulders of a person while being shaved or having his or her hair dressed. It was thus applied especially to the various articles collectively which form the apparatus of a toilet-table or dressing-table. Dressing-tables or toilettes were articles of domestic furniture on which the 18th century cabinet makers and ébenistes of France lavished their decorative art. The escritoire and toilette combined which belonged to Marie Antoinette is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington (see Furniture, Plate IV., fig. 4).

  1. “Toil,” labour, fatigue, weariness, must of course be distinguished. The M. Eng. toilen appears to mean to pull, struggle, and is probably related to Scots toilyie, broil, and to Fr. touiller, to entangle, shuffle together, smear. It is, however, usually referred to “till,” to cultivate, O. Eng. tiolian, from til, profitable, cf. Ger. Ziel, goal.