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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.
Origin of asylum
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 asylum
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I am grateful also for the asylum which I have since found under your roof.

    Tales of My Time, Vol. 1 (of 3) William Pitt Scargill
  • Advocated with more heat than light by the outmates of every asylum for the insane.

    The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
  • It was also asserted that the Commissioners had recognised him as the chaplain of the asylum.

    Norfolk Annals Charles Mackie
  • They picked up the ladder and looked toward the asylum building.

    Frank Roscoe's Secret Allen Chapman
  • If his friends gave him an asylum in their houses, 20 those houses were forthwith turned into bagnios and taverns.

    Macaulay's Life of Samuel Johnson Thomas Babington Macaulay
British Dictionary definitions for asylum


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 asylum

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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asylum 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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