Is It A Master Bathroom Or A Primary Bathroom?

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a handful of people tell me, “Kristi, you should call your bathroom a primary bathroom instead of a master bathroom.” So the time has come for me to address this topic, and explain why I won’t be switching from master bathroom to primary bathroom (or master bedroom to primary bedroom) anytime in the near future.

I don’t know exactly when this change happened, but it seems like it was around 2020 that I started seeing the terms primary bathroom and primary bedroom. All of my life, these rooms have been called master bathrooms and master bedrooms, but all of a sudden, someone decided these terms were not appropriate anymore, and we all needed to change our language.

I started seeing these new terms in real estate listings, blog posts, social media posts, etc. And while I personally thought the change was unnecessary, I also know that as a blogger who relies on Google for a whole lot of the traffic to my blog, I’ll go with the flow.

But what I quickly realized (and continue to realize even two years after I began hearing these new terms) is that this change in terminology seems to have only happened in a relatively small echo chamber of social media pertaining specifically to the home/garden/DIY/decorating niches, and then it spilled over to some people who work in real estate. Other than those small niches, this change in terminology has not reached the nation at large.

As I mentioned above, bloggers like myself rely quite a bit on Google to send us traffic. That means we have to know what search terms people are typing into Google in order to find information, and then we bloggers can use those search terms in our blog posts (if and when they fit naturally) in order to try to get some of those people who are searching for those terms to land on our websites, where they’ll hopefully find some useful information regarding the term they searched.

We bloggers and website owners have different tools that we can use to see what terms people are searching in Google.

So let me show you what people are searching for.

First up, when I see how many people are searching for information about “primary bathroom”, this is the information provided by Google.

This shows different search terms that include “primary bathroom” that people have searched for in Google. The key info provided, besides the specific search terms that people are typing into Google, is volume. Volume is simply the monthly average of Google searches for those specific key phrases over the past 12 months.

So over the past 12 months, there have been an average of 140 searches per month in the United States for primary bathroom. And then you can see other related search terms there, and their average per month over the last 12 months.

Here are a few more related to primary bathroom.

Now let me show you how that compares to the people searching for information regarding master bathroom.

I mean, there’s simply no comparison.

There’s an average of 27,100 searches for master bathroom ideas every month in the United States, compared to 110 searches for primary bathroom ideas each month. The fact is that the average American simply has not yet gotten the memo. The memo is stuck in a relative small echo chamber online, and it just hasn’t made it to the broader public yet.

As you would imagine, those same trends hold true with the terms master bedroom compared to primary bedroom. Each month, on average, there are 27,100 searches for the term master bedroom ideas in the United States, compared to 320 searches for primary bedroom ideas.

So when will I switch over? I’ll do so as soon as I see the trend change, and I see that the average American has started using these new terms. But I’m not looking to be a trend-setter in my use of the English language. 🙂 I just simply want to write some blog posts about my house and my DIY projects, and hope that the average American who stumbles across my blog finds them helpful and useful. But they can’t find them if I’m using terms they’ve never heard of, don’t use in their daily life, and would never even think to search for in Google. 🙂

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    1. That is exactly the reason for the language switch. Historically “master bedroom” was used during slavery and isn’t appropriate in modern times.

      1. The first use of the word “master bedroom” was in a Sears & Roebuck catalog in 1926 in which they were selling a home building kit for just over $4000. The etymology of “master bathroom” has absolutely no relation to slavery. 🙄

        1. Do you really think there wasn’t any racism or male privilege in 1926? Or maybe you don’t believe in systemic racism or white privilege in general? In which case you need to wake up. When they stay low we go high.

          1. WOW you are turning this into a Political tirade…this is not the forum. Do not ruin the wonderful blog we all follow…

  1. This was very informative. I used to live in the DFW metroplex and I notice when checking house listings in that area most refer to primary bedroom and bath . However, I now live in a rural area in a southern mid -Atlantic state and most listings still use master.
    I wondered how each realtor and area determined which word they would use.
    Thank you for this eye opening info about how the internet has a great influence on which words we use to describe the same area of a home.

    1. Um no, “master bedroom/bathroom” as a term originates from the days of slavery. It is how these areas would be referred to in that kind of setting. Really?

      1. Um, no, the term “master bedroom” developed in the 1920’s, long after slavery was abolished. Maybe the push to change it is due to concepts of patriarchy or slavery, but historically it is not a racist term.

        1. Wow. A whole 55 years after slavery was abolished. I’m sure everything was completely fair and equal by then and no discriminatory language was being used. I’m sure all the black people in leadership at Sears and Roebuck in the 1920s would agree with you. Oh wait, there wasn’t a black CEO in American until 1987. I guess racism wasn’t solved by the 1920s.

      1. TOTALLY agree. The Master BDR/BTHR was perfect all these years. All part of the “new” normal they all feel the need to create. WE DON”T NEED THIS…leave us alone!!! Thanks Kristi for staying with it, and I’m glad all those Google searches are still the same. WHO the heck thinks of these things then tries to influence all the rest of us. UGH.

  2. Good post. I’m sticking with master bedroom/bathroom. I feel realtors hype everything so it’s a bit off putting. It will be interesting when I decide to sell my home. I wonder when a master key will become a primary key….dumb.

  3. It is a WOKE response to the sensitivities of calling it a master bedroom correlating the term to the master of the plantation.

    1. I think it is for the MASTER OF THE HOUSE – no matter WHO it is. They get the bigger bedroom with it’s own private bathroom, where guests and kids get to use the rest of the rooms. WHY must ‘THEY” always make it about something else? When I get ready to put my house on the market I will decide what the room is, or find another realtor!

    1. As a Realtor in TN, we are required to use “Primary bedroom and Bathroom “. It’s not hype, we can actually get in trouble using “master”.

      1. Just the fact that you must use approved language is disturbing. I’m not going down the rabbit hole on this blog, but IMO the “newspeak” is an attempt to remove our humanity…birthing person, etc. I’m not having it. I’m sorry you are working in a system that requires this of you, and I fully understand you must put food on the table and provide a roof. For myself, I’d quit.

  4. The voices I’m seeing leading the change are asking us to move away from the terms that point back to the plantation/slavery era because people have are still being harmed by racism.
    The tipping point is a long way off. I wouldn’t expect the SEO to shift for at least a decade.

  5. All these “shoulds” make me tired. If you can demonstrate that someone is *actually* hurt, fine. Otherwise, it’s just you trying to pretend you’re better than everybody else, and I’m over it.

    (You, general not you, Kristi.)

    1. Thank you! This is exactly the conclusion I came to. Honestly, this whole “primary” thing is just a way for a small group of realtors to virtue signal instead of having to deal with any real issues such as equal housing opportunities or excessive police violence. Changing to the word “primary” and trying to force it on everyone else is easy!

    2. Ditto Michelle B. People can be offended by the most innocuous things.
      A quick Google search for master bedroom origination…”The first recorded usage of “master bedroom” seems to have been in a 1926 Modern Homes catalog by Sears, Roebuck and Co. The pamphlet offered potential buyers a kit they could use to build their own homes.”
      So master, primary, owner’s suite, like most things in this life…it’s marketing. Essentially what television, radio (remember those) the internet, one big platform to sell stuff.

  6. Kristi, I love that you thought this through logically and rationally. Logic and rationality are often in short supply these days, in relation to words used–and many other areas as well. No need for hysterics most of the time lol.

    1. Well said, Julie! Thank you, Kristi, for the stats and explanation of how search engines work! Yours was a practical decision based on statistics. I am with you!

  7. As a non-bloggger, it’s interesting to see how bloggers use Google search terms to improve viewership; I had no idea. As to the term master, I think there seems to be some confusion between using the term as a noun vs adjective, which have two widely differing definitions. I certainly would not wish to be a master but I’d love to be a master craftsman and I’d love to have your master bathroom.

  8. I feel this new terminology is being pushed upon us by the social media, and
    the cancel culture. There is nothing wrong with calling the main bed room and bathroom in the house the Master Bedroom and Master Bathroom. Not insulting or demeaning, people just really try to twist so many things into being “offensive” doesn’t matter if the new versions offed all of us who have known things to be as they are since the dawn of time.

  9. I call it the master bathroom, and master bedroom. I hear them say the owner’s suite also. Who knows anymore what is “correct”, everything has changed so much, and not for the good.

  10. To me primary bathroom says it’s just the only real bath and not private to the master bedroom which also means this bedroom was meant for the adults/owners of the house and not a guest room or child size room.
    PC has become so stupid. What was once just being considerate of a few peoples feelings has become an obsession for those who are always looking to feel like they have the high road.

  11. I’d heard somewhere that a group of people wanted master bedroom/bathroom to be changed…the funny thing is up til I read your post today, I had never heard what they wanted it to be changed to!

  12. I totally understand your reasoning, but why not hyphenate and use both- primary/master bathroom. Then you’ll get that many more clicks!!! I’m curious what terminology will be used for my realm of the spectrum. Right now I call myself a master gardener. I also wonder what we will call young men and young women. Etiquette has always been Master, or Mistress and then their first names. Lots of change happening, and I’m not sure what parts I like or don’t like. Personally speaking I’m for polite, it drives me nuts when small children who I don’t know call me by mt first name.

  13. I think the term master has a bad connotation going back to the days of slavery. I think the term has evolved to be more politically correct.

  14. The fact that someone thinks you should change a word that is commonly used is certainly odd. In the end, as long as the meaning is clear, people should feel free to use whatever terminology they want.

  15. This makes such good sense! I originally found you when I was searching for examples of “mixed metals” and even found a video of you spray painting the metal frame of a client’s shower! I vowed that I was going to do that but confess I never did. My husband found a claim that “Master Bathroom” was first used 60 years after slavery was abolished in an add for a prebuilt Sears house kit. It was marketing! It made the house sound more “grand.” According to the New York Times there is no connection of the term to slavery. It’s just about sensibilities

  16. According to Merriam-Webster, the word “master” has been in use since the 1100’s. It’s an Old English/Anglo French word with multiple meanings, only one of which has to do with slavery. Thus it can be used in numerous modern English words which have little to no relationship with the master-slave concept, e.g. masterpiece and masterful.

    English is constantly growing and changing, taking in words from languages all over the world, and that is a strength of our spoken tongue. If you like the word “master,” use it. If you’re comfortable with “primary,” use that. But you shouldn’t be compelled to use–or not use– a particular word because some “woke” character decided you should.

    Kristi, your logic makes perfectly good sense.

    1. Yes, exactly this. When all this started happening in the design world echo chamber I chose to continue using master bedroom and bathroom myself, and not lop off segments of the word’s meaning just because some people think it only means slavery.

    1. Exactly…hey, people don’t over think either of these terms.. other parts of the world use different terms for many things. Really, we mostly know how to search for things in different ways, in my opinion.

  17. That’s interesting that Google gives you information on how many searches are made for each phrase. I’m sure it’s very useful to you. If you put a hyphen or slash between “primary” and “master” would searches for either of those words be directed to you?

  18. To me, it’s still a master bedroom. Primary (to me) implies the main bedroom or the main bath, it’s the one people primarily use. Master implies that it’s an en suite and has a self contained bath, possibly larger or double closet and more upgrades. I’m a licensed real estate agent in Idaho and we still say master. It’s more commonly known and in my mind, it’s never been a negative or a cultural dig, it’s a technical term to decipher which room would be the definite room of the homeowner. There are celebrities of color who say that the phrase isn’t offensive to them and it’s a minor issue. Sometimes things just are and a line needs to be drawn to just let some things be since they’re true ‘first world’ issues.

    1. This was my thought. When I’ve heard “primary bedroom” and “primary bathroom” it has usually been when there was not an en suite, but to designate the larger room that would perhaps be treated as the main bedroom, whereas master bedroom and bathroom has always referred to en suite bed and bath. I’m in Florida, and it isn’t uncommon to see listings boasting “two master bedrooms!” meaning two en suites.

  19. Dear commenters, I keep hoping to find a corner of the internet that isn’t nasty. Disappointment to be called ‘asinine’ because I’d like to be a more inclusive, welcoming person. I will keep looking.

  20. For myself, primary means two different things in my home. Yes, the master bedroom is the primary bedroom in use (as in, it has been used the longest and the most within our house; my children’s bedrooms are secondary; guest room tertiary). As for a primary bathroom, that would NOT be the master bedroom. Our house’s main bathroom is the primary bathroom of use in the home – the master is used for our showering needs and right before bed/after waking, but during the day the main bathroom is used by all — adults, children, guests, etc. I guess it’s all in how you look at it.

  21. I heard the term on a HDTV show this year. I wondered what on earth had happened to the house’s master bedroom that it got demoted to primary!

  22. Aren’t you also a REALTOR®️? If so, I advise you to change to primary quickly. National Association of REALTORS®️ deemed the term unusable by way of Fair Housing. Once more people start using primary then master will be out- isn’t that how things get better in general? Some people get better and encourage others to do better and it spreads. Either way, follow what your real estate association says or a post like this can have you taken up to the ethics board.

  23. In my (simple) mind, the “primary bathroom” is the one used by everyone. The “master bathroom” is the one used by the occupants of the master bedroom.

    1. Of course.
      Primary bathroom is for all visitors and other residents of the house. Master bathroom is the sanctuary of those who use the master bedroom (ie. biggest and best bedroom).

    1. Why do people pick and choose what offends them and/or to make make something devisive. What will they do with Jesus who was called Master, yet did not have slaves? Get those holy scissors out!
      From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

      1 of 3
      mas·​ter ˈma-stər 
      plural masters
      a(1): a male teacher
      (2): a person holding an academic degree higher than a bachelor’s but lower than a doctor’s
      also : the degree itself
      b often capitalized : a revered religious leader
      c : a worker or artisan qualified to teach apprentices
      compare apprentice entry 1 sense 1b, journeyman sense 1
      d(1): an artist, performer, or player of consummate (see consummate entry 1 sense 1) skill
      (2): a great figure of the past (as in science or art) whose work serves as a model or ideal
      a: one having authority over another : ruler, governor
      This decisive battle left him master of Europe.
      b: one that conquers or masters : victor, superior
      in the new challenger the champion found his master
      c: a person licensed to command a merchant ship
      d: one having control
      proved himself master of the situation
      e: an owner especially of an animal
      f: the employer especially of a servant
      g: a person who holds another person in slavery
      dialect : husband
      : the male head of a household
      archaic : mr.
      : a youth or boy too young to be called mister
      —used as a title
      : the eldest son of a Scottish viscount or baron (see baron sense 2a)
      : a presiding (see preside sense 2) officer in an institution or society (such as a college)
      : any of several officers of court appointed to assist (as by hearing and reporting) a judge
      : a master mechanism (see mechanism sense 1) or device
      : an original from which copies can be made
      especially : a master recording (such as a magnetic tape)

  24. The term “master bath” and the use of the term “primary bath” in place of it leads me to believe that that specific place in the home is to be used by anyone living or visiting said home when in fact it is a private room specifically for certain people only, usually the owner(s) of the home. I’ll stick with the term “master” bed/bath.

  25. Thank you Kristie for this post! And Chris for such a logical explanation. I just wonder what colleges and universities are going to do with their masters programs? My son has a hard-earned Masters in accounting – should he be stoned?

  26. Master bathroom/bedroom will always be the way I see it. This BS of being a primary is just ridiculous. I was a realtor for years and have always and will always use the term “master”. People need to get some hobbies or use their time to help others instead worrying about the terminology of such a minute detail. These are the people who have nothing better to do then demean others. The big picture here is treating people like you want to be treated and learning to care for this human race we are in. We are only here for a very short time and creating animosity for such trivial things is a waste.

  27. Will always be “MASTER” bdrm / bath. You are the master of your house. Period. I’m shocked by the people who speak out for political correctness or trying to ‘help’ when they thinking other people are being offended, when clearly the analytics show differently. THOUSANDS to literally a handful. Very interesting insight, Kristi!

  28. Hey, i always have and always will say master for both. I have 2 ideas as to why they are changing it or at least trying to change it.
    First “master” is a negative word to Black people. So in order to use less negative terms lots of things are changing. Second, as same gender marriage is now allowed there is no master and mistress. Therefore master in obsolete to these people. Master still means main bedroom bath to me and everyone i know. As a lesbian i know for a fact the younger gay generation is more into changeing terminology. I cant and really dont care about all the lables out there now. Im too old at 73 to even try to keep up to date. So as the only person in my house i will continue to say madter bedroom/bath useing the other definition of master.

  29. I’m a 66-year old retired English teacher from Canada, and I’m following this discussion with great interest. One of the language lessons I used to teach my students was the difference between the denotation and the connotation of words. The denotation is the accepted dictionary definition of a word, while the connotation is its associated emotional or implicit meaning. It’s obvious here that there’s lots of difference of opinion as to whether or not the connotations of the word ‘master’ are negative in the context of discussing particular rooms in a house. To me, when I think about it – which I haven’t done much until this post, so thanks, Kristi, it’s always good to be prompted to think about things! – the word master when used to describe a bedroom/bathroom area has a connotation of ‘superiority’, whether based on race or sex. I think I have this feeling because of what I know about history (race), and also because I am becoming more aware of how ingrained patriarchal terms are in our society – i.e. the man is ‘master’ of the house and the bedroom is the one shared with his wife. It’s technically correct to look at the denotation of the word master and see how it applies to those rooms, but as I also used to tell my students, language and social mores are always in a state of change. There are lots of terms that our English-speaking cultures have moved on from, and I suppose what’s happening here is that we’re in the middle of another one of those changes and eventually a new common usage that reflects current reality will emerge.

    1. Thanks Sue. Maybe you can help further. Is it a Masters Degree or a Primary Degree? Is a priceless painting a Masterpiece or a Primarypiece? Is the premiere golfing event called the Master’s or the Primary’s? Is the person who comes with the big idea/plan the Mastermind or the Primarymind? Has someone mastered a task or have they primaried a task?

  30. As someone who works in the multi family industry we have had to change our wording to “primary” in order to comply with ever changing Fair Housing policies. Realtors also have to now use the word “primary”. We can literally be sued personally for using the incorrect term. In the business world this isn’t just a trend, it’s a measure we must follow. However, this is your home and you aren’t trying to sell or lease it so go ahead and use whatever term you want. Heck, call it the “favorite toilet room”, “most used bedroom”, or whatever else floats your boat or helps with Google’s algorithm.

  31. “Primary bathroom” would be the “main bathroom”… the one that the kids and guests use. Calling a master bathroom used by only one or two people ever, the primary bathroom, is just flat out wrong.

    None of us are supposed to consider ourselves “masters” of anything, even of our own homes… that is the direction “they” are attempting to take the world into — they say we “will own nothing, rent everything, and be happy.” Um, we’ll see how that works out. lol

  32. Is it a Masters Degree or a Primary Degree? Is a priceless painting a Masterpiece or a Primarypiece? Is the premiere golfing event called the Master’s or the Primary’s? Is the person who comes with the big idea/plan the Mastermind or the Primarymind? Has someone mastered a task or have they primaried a task?