The term garderobe describes a place where clothes are stored (wardrobe is a related term), but may also be used for places where other items are stored, or euphemistically for historical toilets.
In European public places, a garderobe denotes the cloakroom, but it may also be an alcove or an armoire. In Danish, Dutch, German, and Spanish garderobe can mean a cloakroom. In Latvian it means checkroom.
In its euphemistic meanings, a garderobe is either a close stool or a medieval or Renaissance lavatory or toilet. In a medieval castle or other building, a garderobe usually was a simple hole discharging to the outside. Such toilets were often placed inside a small chamber, leading by association to the use of the term garderobe to describe them. Depending on the structure of the building, garderobes could lead to cess pits or moats. Many can still be seen in Norman and medieval castles and fortifications. They became obsolete with the introduction of indoor plumbing.
A description of the garderobe at Donegal castle indicates that during the time when the castle garderobe was in use it was believed that ammonia was a disinfectant and that visitor's coats and cloaks were kept in the garderobe. The construction of garderobes was not limited to Britain and Ireland; they were also common in medieval castles on the continent. An example is Bürresheim Castle in Germany, where three garderobes are still visible today.
According to the medieval architecture scholar, Frank Bottomley, garderobes were:
Properly, not a latrine or privy but a small room or large cupboard, usually adjoining the chamber or solar and providing safe-keeping for valuable clothes and other possessions of price: cloth, jewels, spices, plate and money.