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I came across a woman talking about having a massage at a massage shop.

What do you call a venue where relaxation massages (as opposed to remedial massages) are done? Is there something better than "massage shop"?

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    This might be a regionalism, but when I llived in New York, "massage parlor" was a common euphemism for "house of prostitution". So if you wanted to say that a place really provided massages and not ... other sorts of services ... you had to say they provided "therapeutic massages". I don't recall hearing that outside New York, though. – Jay Mar 11 '13 at 15:02
  • @Jay that's the case in Australia as well. – Andrew Grimm Mar 11 '13 at 21:54
  • @Jay "Parlor" is used in the UK too, but like your time in NYC, it is either archaic or carries similar connotations of being a "rub-and-tug shop". – StuperUser May 22 at 13:15
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"Spa" would be an acceptable term, although it doesn't necessarily refer specifically to massage. It can include massage, skin treatment, aromatherapy, etc. Though it isn't specifically limited to massage, "spa" does hold the idea of non-remedial activity.

As @J. R. graciously pointed out, "salon" would also be correct. It shares the same strengths and weaknesses. That is, it does not refer to massage specifically, but to non-remedial relaxation in general. (It also includes hairdressing, and thus is slightly broader than "spa".)

Note that "massage shop" or "massage parlor" are sometimes used as euphemisms for a brothel. If you use these terms, be sure that you give them proper context.

  • I think salon might work, too. – J.R. Mar 11 '13 at 14:42
  • @J.R. You're entirely correct. I knew I was missing something obvious. – Jonathan Garber Mar 11 '13 at 16:05
  • Interesting - I thought "spa" meant "hot spring" or "hot tub", but I've heard "day spa" or "spa" being used this way. Also, while I knew about "massage parlor" being used for a certain kind of service (which I hoped to avoid mentioning!), I wasn't aware of "massage shop" having such a meaning! – Andrew Grimm Mar 11 '13 at 21:52
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    @JonathanGarber "spa" or "salon" wouldn't have the euphemistic interpretation, would it? – Andrew Grimm Mar 14 '13 at 2:32
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    @AndrewGrimm: No. In general, native speakers would not automatically assume an "alternate" interpretation to either of these words. – Jonathan Garber Mar 14 '13 at 20:21
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When I go to get a massage, I say I am going to the massage therapist. While in most contexts that would refer to the individual practitioner (i.e. the specific person providing the massage), it can also refer to the practice in general, which in turn refers to the unit of business where one or more licensed therapists provide massage therapy.

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