How Did The Word “Plumber” Come About?

Plumber In Austin Water Coming Out Of Ancient Fountain

Did you ever say an ordinary word and it just sounds sort of weird and different? Then, you start to wonder, “How did that word come about?” Take the word, “Plumber.”

The word plumber dates back to the times of the Roman Empire! It is based on the Latin word for “lead”, which is “plumbum.” But what is the connection between lead and plumbers? In the Roman era, workman who dealt with drain pipes and building the baths that civilization enjoyed, worked with lead or “plumbum”. Thus, they were considered experts with lead were called “Plumbarius”. This evolved into the terms we know today: “plumbers” and “plumbing.”

The Romans were really quite advanced in their plumbing systems, having aqueducts, underground sewers, public baths, bronze and lead piping systems, and even marble fixtures. Around 52 A.D., Rome boasted an estimated 220 miles of aqueducts, pipes and water channels used to supply baths, homes and public wells. The water channels were powered by gravity and carried 300 gallons of fresh water for Rome’s citizens.

But wait, lead may be malleable and easy to bend for use in pipes, but it’s poisonous, right? Why didn’t lead poisoning kill all the Romans? Well, despite the Romans’ common use of lead pipes, their aqueducts rarely poisoned people. Unlike other parts of the world where lead pipes do cause poisoning, the Roman water had so much calcium in it that a layer of plaque prevented the water contacting the lead itself.

Going back even farther in plumbing history, however, archaeologists discovered the first water pipes in the Indus River in India, dating back to 4000-3000 B.C. Another ancient contribution to modern plumbing is from Egyptian ruler Menes who supported a thriving civilization by constructing canals, irrigation ditches and basins at about the same time period as the plumbing system in India.

Between 1500 and 1000 B.C., under the reign of King Minos, the people of Crete created elaborate sewage disposal and drainage systems with underground channels. During the same period, the first flushing toilet was invented, complete with a wooden seat. Archeologists have also discovered a bathtub resembling cast-iron ones from the late 19th century in America. And in 710 B.C., Sargon the Great, an Assyrian king, invented the first shower by having slaves on ladders pour water over him while he bathed.

Next time you’re looking for a great conversation-starter, look no farther than the origins of the word “plumber.” And if you need a plumber, we’re only a phone call away! Find our number on our Facebook info page and call us up if there’s trouble! We’ll “get the lead out” and be there in no time!