In "The Grapes of Wrath" there's a scene where they're talking about toilets. When the water in the toilet is discussed, in the translation ("Las Uvas de la Ira"), the word is not translated (to "agua" as would be expected), but it remains "water"

Why would that be?


Here it is:

"Lady come in las' week, an' she got in here 'fore the committee got to her, an' she had her ol' man's pants in the toilet,..."


"Una senora llego la semana pasada y entro aqui antes de que la visitara el comite y habia metido los pantalones de su marido en el water,..."

So it wasn't water:water after all, it's toilet:water, but still it seems an odd translation to me...

  • 4
    Well, wáter (also spelled váter) is just a name for toilet. What's the whole sentence? Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 15:54
  • I don't have it with me at the moment, but the water itself (in the toilet) was being referred to. If anybody has the Centenniel editions of the paperbacks, it's on p. 316 or so in the English, and 352 or so in the Spanish. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 16:02
  • 1
    guifa already answered: water [Pronounced Váter; remember ther's no "v" just "b"] is the way Spaniards name the toilet.
    – Jaume
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 3:53

4 Answers 4


This is a derivation of the English term "Water-closet" which has been incorporated into Spanish.

Although the correct accepted word is váter (so the correct translation would be váter), the common usage on the date the book was translated was water.

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    In Peru, it is very common to say "Water" from the term you stated in your answer (Water-closet). But for some "delicate" people, it sounds disgusting. So they use the appropiate term "Inodoro" which has this two meaning in Spanish: 1.Odorless 2. Toilet. This is the accurate term used in Latin America and even Spain. It is also known as "Retrete" and "Escusado" in some countries. Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 16:26

It is an odd translation, I grew up in Mexico and reside in the US and had never heard or read this word until now, tho as @guifa indicates if I where reading the book (in spanish) I would question it's meaning but wouldn't think of "agua". So my guess is the edition you are reading is meant for distribution in certain countries. What I found is that "Wáter" meaning toilet is used in Chile, Perú, Uruguay, Paraguay, some parts of Argentina and also in Spain where the alternative spelling is "Váter" but they also use "Inodoro" which i think would've been a more general translation. In Latin America you will also run into "WC" but it means the space (restroom) And here are some variations if you ever need to find a toilet: Sanitario, Escusado, Poceta, Servicio (Costa Rica, Honduras & Panama) & also "Retrete" (small place to retire to) :) Cheers.

  • Agreed! Even when it is possible to find references of wáter used in certain countries, it may not be too well received or may be used by people with vulgar or rough manners. In Chile for instance a finer way would be 'la taza del baño' or just 'la taza' or 'inodoro', sometimes 'excusado' but mainly in written specifications. Strange thing is that even when they write WC on some bathroom doors, they don't pronounce 'water closet' meaning that it has become more of an icon or symbol on the door indicating use. Wáter may be also heard in colloquial, very casual exchange with comic notes. Commented May 30, 2015 at 11:25

As you point out in your update, it's actually the word toilet that's being translated as wáter. Trust me when I say it doesn't sound weird to natives (unless they use inodoro or some other term instead). It's been fully incorporated into the language and so beyond perhaps connecting it to the British term watercloset, I can promise you no native speaker is thinking agua when they see wáter/váter


It was translated!

In much of the Spanish-speaking world, "Water Closet" (often abbreviated as 'W.C') is borrowed from English, and can mean the same as the American terms toilet (the actual porcelain fixture) or bathroom (the room which contains the porcelain fixture).

I took this photo in a public restroom in Madrid, for instance:

enter image description here

So what you saw was a translation from "toilet" to the short version of the Anglicanism "water closet".

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