: a Finnish steam bath in which the steam is provided by water thrown on hot stones; also: a bathhouse or room used for such a bath
: a dry heat bath; also: a room or cabinet used for such a bath
Bath in steam from water thrown on heated stones. Known in ancient times in various places, saunas are most closely identified with the Finnish people, who made saunas a national tradition. Typically, a wooden hut containing rows of flat stones is built near the edge of a lake. Wood is burned to heat the stones, and, when the stones are hot, cold water is thrown on them to create steam. The unclothed bathers sit on wooden benches in the steam-filled hut, then beat themselves with branches until their skin is red and tingling, and dive into the cold water or (in winter) roll in the snow. These extreme temperature changes are thought to have a beneficial effect on the circulation. In an adapted form, saunas are popular today in gymnasiums and health clubs.