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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 asylum
  • They are welcome to the asylum they seek for their offence, since they take refuge in their folly.
  • The number of people who sought asylum in industrialised countries fell last year.
  • The inmates are running the asylum.
  • He became ill and disabled and spent the last years of his life in an insane asylum.
  • Narika runs a hotline and provides women with assistance such as finding them an attorney and helping them apply for asylum.
  • The debate over asylum during the election campaign is similarly surreal.
  • It was a lunatic asylum.
  • Camille went mad and spent her last 30 years in an asylum.
  • But nothing could be more completely concealed than the entrance to their asylum.
  • He spent his last 22 years in a mental asylum; today his works are hardly known.
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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