You might hear the words "hot tub", "spa", and "Jacuzzi" used interchangeably, but are there actual differences between the words?
While researching this article, we found that there is some disagreement--even among industry professionals--about what these different words mean and when they should be used. However, you can use the information below as a rough guide.
"Hot tub" is probably the word you will hear used most often, as it is the most generic of the three terms. At its most basic definition, it could be used to mean any hot bath or basic of water. More specifically, however, it is used to describe tubs made of wood, sometimes with a liner set inside, often with wood-burning stoves or some other form of heating. They can sometimes offer jets, but often don't, and they typically don't have contoured seating. This is the original style of tub, and they traditionally resembled large wooden barrels full of hot water. Hot tubs have a long history, but most recently became very popular in private homes in the 1960s.
The word "spa" basically describes a hot tub that is equipped with jets. Most are made out of fiberglass or acrylic. The term "spa" was first used in 1596 to describe the Harrogate, an enclosed well that contained medicinal water built by William Slingsby. Slingsby had visited a Belgium town called Spa, which was--and still is--renowned for its healing cold springs. When the hot tub industry began building tubs out of fiberglass and acrylic, they co-opted the word "spa" as a nod to the Belgian town and lend an air of elegance and luxury to this new product.
Strictly speaking, "Jacuzzi" is the brand name of a company that manufactures spas, and the word should always be capitalized. In 1968, Candido Jacuzzi invented a self-contained whirlpool bath for his young son, who was born with rheumatoid arthritis. It was an instant success and within a few decades the company name became nearly synonymous with the invention itself.
So Which One Should You Use?
Colloquially, the three terms are interchangeable. Alternatively, you could use the phrase "hot tub spas" as a good catch-all for any unit that holds and/or heats water and may or may not be equipped with jets.