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

Synonyms for bedlam Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bedlam

Contemporary Examples of bedlam

Historical Examples of bedlam

  • 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.


    James Huneker

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

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

British Dictionary definitions for bedlam



a noisy confused place or situation; state of uproarhis speech caused bedlam
archaic a lunatic asylum; madhouse

Word Origin for bedlam

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

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