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[bed-luh m] /ˈbɛd ləm/
a scene or state of wild uproar and confusion.
Archaic. an insane asylum or madhouse.
Origin of bedlam
a popular name for the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, which served as a lunatic asylum from circa 1400; compare Middle English Bedleem, Bethleem, Old English Betleem Bethlehem
1. disorder, tumult, chaos, clamor, turmoil, commotion, pandemonium. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for bedlam
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You cannot get me into bedlam, all-powerful, all-artful as you are.

  • Cry after cry, and answering cries, were turning the silence into a bedlam.

    White Fang Jack London
  • It was said that they meant to throw the gates of bedlam open, and let all the madmen loose.

    Barnaby Rudge Charles Dickens
  • She swam away in the bedlam of shrieks and clattering of dishes and knives.

    Melomaniacs James Huneker
  • Say, I wonder if there's any one out in this bedlam of a night?

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
  • But what are we to say to a man who compares Dante to 'a Methodist parson in bedlam'?

  • I persist—an unwelcome visitor, a bargain-hunting tourist in bedlam.

    Fantazius Mallare Ben Hecht
  • So, day after day, he riddles the bedlam about him with his broadsides, in the hourly hope of victory.

    In Our Town William Allen White
  • No Mortal out of the depths of bedlam but lives by Formulas.

    Past and Present Thomas Carlyle
British Dictionary definitions for bedlam


a noisy confused place or situation; state of uproar: his speech caused bedlam
(archaic) a lunatic asylum; madhouse
Word Origin
C13 bedlem, bethlem, after the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in London
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 bedlam

"scene of mad confusion," 1660s, from colloquial pronunciation of "Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem" in London, founded 1247 as a priory, mentioned as a hospital 1330 and as a lunatic hospital 1402; converted to a state lunatic asylum on dissolution of the monasteries in 1547. It was spelled Bedlem in a will from 1418, and Betleem is recorded as a spelling of Bethlehem in Judea from 971.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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