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  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.
    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.
  4. any secure retreat.
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Origin of asylum

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

Synonyms for asylum

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for asylum

shelter, sanctuary, haven, refuge, preserve, hideaway, harbor, cover, port, safety, den, hole, hideout, security, retreat, institution, madhouse, sanatorium

Examples from the Web for asylum

Contemporary Examples of asylum

Historical Examples of asylum

British Dictionary definitions for asylum


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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

asylum in Medicine


  1. An institution for the care of people, especially individuals with physical or mental impairments, who require organized supervision or assistance.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.