EtymologyAustralian convicts' "flash" language dunna faeces
- Rhymes: -ʌni
- A toilet. Possibly an outside toilet and by implication old, ramshackle.
- This article is about the Australian colloquial word for a toilet. For other uses, see Dunny (disambiguation).
Dunny or dunny can is Australian slang for toilet, either the room or the specific fixture, especially an outhouse or other outdoor toilets. It is often used to specify a distinction between a flushing toilet and a non-flushing toilet (e.g., a longdrop or thunderbox). First used in print in 1952, the word is believed to be derived from the much older 'dunnakin' (also spelled 'dunnigin' and 'dunegan') meaning privy.
In colloquial (Australian) English no distinction is made between the type of toilet; all types of "convenience" being commonly referred to as a dunny. In the bush (outback) the dunny can be a conveniently sheltered part of the paddock or indeed any place where one relieves oneself.
Traditionally, dunnies were found in unsewered areas and consisted of little more than a seat placed over a can (or "dunny-can") or deep hole (or cesspit). The latter variation can be referred to more specifically as a longdrop. Dunnies were maintained at some distance from houses for obvious reasons of smell and hygiene. The sheds themselves were generally made of either wood or corrugated iron, to facilitate the moving of the dunny if required (for example, if the hole in the longdrop was filled up).
By the middle of the twentieth century, dunnies had become much less common as modern plumbing diminished the need to keep toilets at a distance from the house. Nevertheless even some large cities, such as Brisbane, had unsewered suburbs where residences required dunnies into the early 1970s.
In built up areas it was unhygienic to rely on cesspits and the usual arrangement was for waste to be collected in a can placed under the dunny. The cans would be collected, emptied, washed and replaced weekly by contractors hired by the local city or town council.
In modern times, many dunnies on old houses remain in use, but have been refitted with modern plumbing and flushing toilets. They are also used in areas too remote to justify the expense of pumping water and sewage piping to, but where there is a need for toilet facilities, such as at remote campsites or along walking tracks. Farmers and station owners sometimes also construct dunnies in remote but often used fields.