The head? 
Posted: 24 February 2007 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  6
Joined  2007-02-24

Where does the term “head” (restroom facilities on a boat or ship) originate? I have looked in a lot of places and have not found an answer.

Posted: 24 February 2007 04:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  4657
Joined  2007-01-29

The OED defines it as “A ship’s latrine (in the bows),” so they apparently take it as a straightforward extension of definition 21 “The fore part of a ship, boat, etc.; the bows.” The first two citations are:

1748 SMOLLETT Rod. Rand. I. xxviii. 253 The madman.. took an opportunity, while the centinel attended him at the head, to leap over-board. 1905 Trans. Inst. Naval Archit. XLVII. I. 29 The W.C.s for officers, and the seamen’s head for the crew, are to be fitted where shown on the drawings.

Quite a gap between them!