asylum

[uh-sahy-luhm]
noun
1.
(especially formerly) an institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill, orphans, or other persons requiring specialized assistance.
2.
an inviolable refuge, as formerly for criminals and debtors; sanctuary: He sought asylum in the church.
3.
International Law.
a.
a refuge granted an alien by a sovereign state on its own territory.
b.
a temporary refuge granted political offenders, especially in a foreign embassy.
4.
any secure retreat.

Origin:
1400–50; late Middle English; < Latin < Greek ásȳlon sanctuary, equivalent to a- a-6 + sŷlon right of seizure


2. haven, shelter, retreat.
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World English Dictionary
asylum (əˈsaɪləm)
 
n
1.  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)
2.  shelter; refuge
3.  international law refuge afforded to a person whose extradition is sought by a foreign government: political asylum
4.  obsolete an institution for the shelter, treatment, or confinement of individuals, esp a mental hospital (formerly termed lunatic asylum)
 
[C15: via Latin from Greek asulon refuge, from asulos that may not be seized, from a-1 + sulon right of seizure]

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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

asylum
early 15c., from L. asylum "sanctuary," from Gk. asylon "refuge," noun use of neut. of asylos "inviolable, safe from violence," from a- "without" + syle "right of seizure." So lit. "an inviolable place."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

asylum a·sy·lum (ə-sī'ləm)
n.
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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Example sentences
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.
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