[ uh-sahy-luhm ]
See synonyms for asylum on
  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.

  1. International Law.

    • a refuge granted an alien by a sovereign state on its own territory.

    • a temporary refuge granted political offenders, especially in a foreign embassy.

  2. any secure retreat.

Origin of asylum

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

Other words for asylum

Words Nearby asylum Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use asylum in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for asylum


/ (əˈsaɪləm) /

  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

  1. international law refuge afforded to a person whose extradition is sought by a foreign government: political asylum

  2. obsolete an institution for the shelter, treatment, or confinement of individuals, esp a mental hospital (formerly termed lunatic asylum)

Origin of asylum

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