Origins of Spend a Penny


This expression came about from women needing to use public toilets. Seems, men never had to pay but women did! They had to put an old pre-decimal penny into a lock on the door and slide a handle across to open it. Hence the expression ‘to spend a penny’ meaning: I have to go pee.


As I remarked about this to Pat Hatt the other day in a comment on his blog, I thought I’d share it here and add a couple of pics too.
It doesn’t seem right that men didn’t have to pay to go, but apparently that’s how it was back then.
Aged 17 once I began travelling a lot of the country because of being in the army. I especially remember the Ladies toilets at Brighton Railway Station. There was always a woman attendant on duty night and day. The big brass locks were still in use and the big old style penny too. The ladies loos was a huge place where unaccompanied women could sit in comparative safety (and comfort) in armchairs or couches while waiting for their train departure times or, for one to arrive.
Spending a Penny facts.

A little bit of useless information because I like knowing where quirky expressions have their origin.

Shared with G Man’s Friday Flash 55

Author: Daydreamer

I live on a beautiful island in Atlantic Canada.

10 thoughts on “Origins of Spend a Penny”

  1. That was educational 🙂 I never heard of that saying before and yes when I lived in Paris everyone paid to use the loo about 10 francs, one dollar at the time, about 10 years ago mind you 😦

  2. it aint a penny no more, many times we had to pay in europe. worth it though, it was always clean due to the attendant there. now it would be to spend a euro. interesting piece though, 🙂

  3. How fascinating! I have never heard the phrase, so the entire 55 was a learning experience for me. Very fun.

  4. Yippeee I spurred on a post. Oh wait it’s about the bathroom, where my place will take people..hahaha…yeah screw the penny I’d just go in an alley.

  5. Then to say…A penny for your thoughts, was kind of naughty?
    thanks for playing, Loved your 55
    and please have a Kick Ass Week-End
    thanks for the history lesson, Loved it

  6. It think if a man were asked to pay to go potty, they would pee for free somewhere else! 🙂 Very interesting.

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