Why Is Perfume Called Toilet Water?

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Toilet water, also known as “eau de toilette,” is a type of perfume with a lower concentration of fragrance. Also known as “aromatic water,” toilet water has an alcohol base of 10 to 15 percent, as compared to pure perfume, which contains 10 to 20 percent alcohol.

Toilet water is understood to mean water used by someone, typically a woman, to freshen up. In 1533, the word perfume was first used in France. The earliest English usage of the word perfume, in about 1620, described the fumes coming from something burning. First used by the ancient Egyptians, perfume was referred to by the Latin term “per fumum,” which means scented smoke. Perfumes were available to all Egyptians, but only Egyptian priests could make the fragrances.

Eventually, perfume was exported for use in Greece, Rome and the Middle East. After the fall of the Roman Empire, perfume use decreased substantially until the 12th century when international trading increased considerably, and perfume was among the products sold. Venice, Italy became a major international trade port between the 14th and 15th century, but lost that distinction when Christopher Columbus discovered America, which eventually became the new focal point for spice and perfume trading.