'Facility' has come more and more to mean a place where one does something. This sense was just coming into use in Webster1913's time, the first recorded use being in 1872. One now has sports facilities, study facilities, and health care facilities. These days it is so common to speak of various facilities that it's hard to believe that not too long ago people actually referred to gymnasiums and sport arenas, libraries and studies, hospitals and doctor's offices by their actual names.

Once places started becoming facilities, one place inevitably became the facility. If someone asks to "use the facilities" they are asking for the restroom. Strangely, although you usually only need one toilet, the washroom is always referred to as the 'facilities' rather than the 'facility'. This may be because the loos in question are often public restrooms.

Toilets are resigned to being called odd names, and do not resent it. But you really shouldn't over-use the word. In some cases it's used as a matter of politically correct doubletalk (as in correctional facility), in others it's a matter of not having an obvious label for an area (such as a training facility). Usually it's just a buzzword (storage facility vs. 'storage sheds', or worse, 'parking facility' in place of a parking garage). When in doubt, you can simply call it a facility, and you'll sound modern and progressive rather than just confused. I don't have any idea who decides to call things what, but if it's you, please don't call your thing a facility.

Fa*cil"i*ty (?), n.; pl. Facilities (#). [L. facilitas, fr. facilis easy: cf. F. facilit. See Facile.]

1.

The quality of being easily performed; freedom from difficulty; ease; as, the facility of an operation.

The facility with which government has been overturned in France. Burke
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2.

Ease in performance; readiness proceeding from skill or use; dexterity; as, practice gives a wonderful facility in executing works of art

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3.

Easiness to be persuaded; readiness or compliance; -- usually in a bad sense; pliancy.

It is a great error to take facility for good nature. L'Estrange.

4.

Easiness of access; complaisance; affability.

Offers himself to the visits of a friend with facility. South.

5.

That which promotes the ease of any action or course of conduct; advantage; aid; assistance; -- usually in the plural; as, special facilities for study.

Syn. -- Ease; expertness; readiness; dexterity; complaisance; condescension; affability. -- Facility, Expertness, Readiness. These words have in common the idea of performing any act with ease and promptitude. Facility supposes a natural or acquired power of dispatching a task with lightness and ease. Expertness is the kind of facility acquired by long practice. Readiness marks the promptitude with which anything is done. A merchant needs great facility in dispatching business; a bunker, great expertness in casting accounts; both need great readiness in passing from one employment to another. "The facility which we get of doing things by a custom of doing, makes them often pass in us without our notice." Locke. "The army was celebrated for the expertness and valor of the soldiers." "A readiness obey the known will of God is the surest means to enlighten the mind in respect to duty."

 

© Webster 1913.

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