AskDefine | Define closet

Dictionary Definition

closet adj
1 (of information) given in confidence or in secret; "closet information"; "this arrangement must be kept confidential"; "their secret communications" [syn: closet(a), confidential, secret]
2 indulging only covertly; "a closet alcoholic"; "closet liberals" [syn: closet(a), secret]


1 a small room (or recess) or cabinet used for storage space [syn: cupboard]
2 a toilet in England [syn: water closet, W.C., loo]
3 a tall piece of furniture that provides storage space for clothes; has a door and rails or hooks for hanging clothes [syn: wardrobe, press]
4 a small private room for study or prayer v : confine to a small space, as for intensive work

User Contributed Dictionary



From closet ()



  1. chiefly US A piece of furniture or a cabinet in which clothes or household supplies may be stored.
  2. A small private chamber.
  3. A toilet; a water closet.
  4. The imagined closet in idioms such as in the closet or skeleton in the closet
    The 'closet can be a scary place for a gay teenager.
  5. informal attributive Secretly.
    He's a closet Republican: he voted for Bush, but won't say so if you ask him.



  • Danish: skab
  • Hebrew:

See also

Extensive Definition

A closet (especially in North American usage) is a small and enclosed space, a cabinet, or a cupboard in a house or building used for general storage or hanging clothes. A closet for food storage is usually referred to as a pantry. A closet, through French from Latin clausum, "closed" began life in the seventeenth century as a small private room, often behind a bedroom, to which a man or woman could retire, for privacy, reading, or enjoyment of personal works of art: for this usage, see Cabinet (architecture).
Modern closets can be built into the walls of the house during construction so that they take up no apparent space in the bedroom, or they can be a large, free-standing piece of furniture designed for clothes storage, in which case they are often called a wardrobe or armoire. Closets are often built under stairs, thereby using awkward space that would otherwise go unused. In current British usage, a "wardrobe" can also be built-in, and the word "cupboard" can be used to refer to a closet. In Elizabethan and Middle English, closet referred to a larger room in which a person could sit and read in private, but now refers to a small room in general.
In North America, chests, trunks and wall-mounted pegs typically provided storage prior to World War II. Built-in wall closets were uncommon and where they did exist, they tended to be small and shallow. Following World War II, however, deeper, more generously sized closets were introduced to new housing designs, which proved to be very attractive to buyers. It has even been suggested that the closet was a major factor in peoples' migration to the suburbs.

Closet tax question

Though some sources claim that colonial American houses often lacked closets because of a "closet tax" imposed by the British crown, others argue that closets were absent in most houses simply because their residents had few possessions.

The closet in pop culture

Figuratively, a closet is a place where one hides things; "having skeletons in one's closet" is a figure of speech for having particularly sensitive secrets. Thus, closet as an adjective means secret—usually with a connotation of vice or shame, as in "a closet alcoholic" or "a closet homosexual," though sometimes used as a humorous exaggeration for any potential embarrassment, as in "a closet comic book fan." To "come out of the closet" is to admit your secrets publicly, but this is now used almost exclusively in reference to homosexuality. The documentary The Celluloid Closet uses this reference to gay people in its examination of how Hollywood films have depicted homosexuals on the screen. This is also extensively used in a controversial episode of South Park.
Psychologically, bedroom closets are the center of many childhood fears. Children fear during the night that a monster or any other paranormal creature hides inside the closet, and is destined to frighten the child. This is a common theme in films. In the first of the Poltergeist movies, the closet was the area of the family house the ghosts hid in to kidnap the child. And the "monster in the closet" fear was developed for comedic possibilities in film Monsters, Inc., in which monsters teleport into children's closets at night from a central location in order to scare them as a means of collecting screams, which run the monster economy. In the newspaper comic Bloom County, the character Binkley had an "anxiety closet" in his bedroom, from which his fears would manifest themselves, while he was sleeping. For example, a librarian wielding a battle-axe, which then struck the headboard of his bed, attacked due to an overdue library book. Similarly, Opus the penguin from the Sunday strip Opus also has a closet which houses his worries.

Types of closets

  • Broom closet: A narrow floor-to-ceiling space for the storage of lengthy items. To come out of the Broom closet = To admit to being a witch
  • Coat closet: A coat closet is a closet of a house where people store their hoods, jackets and coats. A coat closet is typically located in the entryway, so that it is close to the front door.
  • Linen closet: A tall, narrow closet, typically located in or near bathrooms and/or bedrooms. Such a closet contains shelves used to hold towels, washcloths, sheets, and toiletries.
  • Wall closet: A very shallow closet closed off from a room by a curtain or folding doors, with only enough depth to hang clothes or store them folded on shelves.
  • Walk-in closet: A closet large enough to walk inside to store clothes on two or three sides. They may have lighting, mirrors, and flooring distinct from adjacent rooms.
  • Utility closet: A closet used for permanently housing appliances, most commonly the heating/cooling unit and water heater, especially in apartments where they cannot be put in a garage, attic, or basement.
  • A water closet (WC) is not a storage closet but a flush toilet. The term comes from the British English definition of a closet as a small private room. In this case, it was a small private room with running water.

See also


closet in Danish: Skab
closet in German: Wandschrank
closet in Esperanto: Ŝranko
closet in Spanish: Closet
closet in Hebrew: ארון
closet in Dutch: Kast
closet in Japanese: 押入れ
closet in Dutch Low Saxon: Kaste
closet in Norwegian: Garderobeskap
closet in Low German: Schapp
closet in Polish: Garderoba
closet in Finnish: Komero
closet in Swedish: Skåp
closet in Chinese: 橱柜

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

WC, academic, adytum, anonymous, archives, armory, arsenal, attic, backhouse, bank, basement, bathroom, bay, bin, bonded warehouse, bookcase, booking office, bottle up, box, box in, box office, box up, branch, branch office, bunker, buttery, cabin, cabinet, can, cargo dock, casket, cellar, chambers, chancellery, chancery, chest, cloakroom, cloister, clothes closet, coffin, comfort station, confidential, confine, conservatory, consulate, convenience, corporate headquarters, cramp, crapper, crate, crib, cupboard, den, depository, depot, dock, drawer, dressing room, dump, earth closet, embassy, encase, entomb, exchequer, executive office, fitting room, glory hole, godown, head, headquarters, hold, holy of holies, home office, hushed, hutch, immure, incognito, inmost, innermost, inside, interior, intimate, inward, isolated, jakes, john, johnny, johnny house, latrine, lavatory, legation, library, linen closet, locker, lumber room, lumberyard, magasin, magazine, main office, necessary, office, outhouse, personal, powder room, private, privy, rack, repertory, repository, reservoir, rest room, retired, retreat, rick, sanctum, sanctum sanctorum, secluded, sequestered, shelf, shop, speculative, stack, stack room, stock room, storage, store, storehouse, storeroom, straiten, study, supply base, supply depot, tank, ticket office, toilet, toilet room, treasure house, treasure room, treasury, urinal, vat, vault, wardrobe, warehouse, washroom, water closet, wine cellar, withdrawn
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