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[uh-sahy-luh m] /əˈsaɪ ləm/
(especially formerly) an institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill, orphans, or other persons requiring specialized assistance.
an inviolable refuge, as formerly for criminals and debtors; sanctuary:
He sought asylum in the church.
International Law.
  1. a refuge granted an alien by a sovereign state on its own territory.
  2. a temporary refuge granted political offenders, especially in a foreign embassy.
any secure retreat.
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English; < Latin < Greek ásȳlon sanctuary, equivalent to a- a-6 + sŷlon right of seizure
2. haven, shelter, retreat. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for asylums
  • We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick.
  • It is true what they say about insane asylums, that there is more out than in.
  • Abandoned mental asylums are treasure-troves for adventurous photographers, curious historians, and well-traveled urban explorers.
  • Outsider art is the name given to work made in places such as asylums and prisons by artists who have not been to art school.
  • Society had a tendency to consign such people to mental asylums, often permanently.
  • Those displaying methods in their madnesses are labelled either as genius or sent to lunatic asylums to test psychotic drugs.
  • asylums have vanished and many private health plans now refuse to pay for psychiatric treatment.
  • All the talk about rounding up people who disagree with you and putting them into asylums is pretty sickening too.
  • These patients were merely warehoused in vast state asylums, where conditions were appalling.
  • It was a hideous sound that would have been familiar in the lunatic asylums of bygone centuries.
British Dictionary definitions for asylums


a safe or inviolable place of refuge, esp as formerly offered by the Christian Church to criminals, outlaws, etc; sanctuary (often in the phrase give asylum to)
shelter; refuge
(international law) refuge afforded to a person whose extradition is sought by a foreign government: political asylum
(obsolete) an institution for the shelter, treatment, or confinement of individuals, esp a mental hospital (formerly termed lunatic asylum)
Word Origin
C15: via Latin from Greek asulon refuge, from asulos that may not be seized, from a-1 + sulon right of seizure
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for asylums



early 15c., earlier asile (late 14c.), from Latin asylum "sanctuary," from Greek asylon "refuge," noun use of neuter of asylos "inviolable, safe from violence," especially of persons seeking protection, from a- "without" + syle "right of seizure." So literally "an inviolable place." General sense of "safe or secure place" is from 1640s; meaning "benevolent institution to shelter some class of persons" is from 1776.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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asylums in Medicine

asylum a·sy·lum (ə-sī'ləm)
An institution for the care of people, especially individuals with physical or mental impairments, who require organized supervision or assistance.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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