from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An institution for the care of people, especially those with physical or mental impairments, who require organized supervision or assistance.
  • n. A place offering protection and safety; a shelter.
  • n. A place, such as a church, formerly constituting an inviolable refuge for criminals or debtors.
  • n. The protection afforded by a sanctuary. See Synonyms at shelter.
  • n. Protection and immunity from extradition granted by a government to a political refugee from another country.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A place of safety
  • n. The protection, physical and legal, afforded by such a place.
  • n. A place of protection or restraint for one or more classes of the disadvantaged, especially the mentally ill.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A sanctuary or place of refuge and protection, where criminals and debtors found shelter, and from which they could not be forcibly taken without sacrilege.
  • n. Any place of retreat and security.
  • n. An institution for the protection or relief of some class of destitute, unfortunate, or afflicted persons

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A sanctuary or place of refuge where criminals and debtors formerly sought shelter from justice, and from which they could not be taken without sacrilege.
  • n. Hence Inviolable shelter; protection from pursuit or arrest; security of the person: as, the right of asylum, that is, of furnishing such protection.
  • n. Any place of retreat and security.
  • n. Specifically An institution for receiving, maintaining, and, so far as possible, ameliorating the condition of persons suffering from bodily defects, mental maladies, or other misfortunes: as, an asylum for the blind, for the deaf and dumb, for the insane, etc.; a magdalen asylum.
  • n. a phrase used by Spinoza to denote the pronouncing of any matter to be a mystery in order to evade arguments against its reality.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a hospital for mentally incompetent or unbalanced person
  • n. a shelter from danger or hardship


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English asilum, refuge, from Latin asȳlum, from Greek asūlon, sanctuary, from neuter of asūlos, inviolable : a-, without; see a-1 + sūlon, right of seizure.


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  • I think, if anything, it's causing people to look at the term asylum and put it in a 21st century defenition

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  • Samantha Haque: Do you think that there's a danger that Andre's case trivializes the term asylum seeker?

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  • The young woman had recoiled from the word "asylum", and her reasons became clear.

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  • So from that came the idea of the universe turned inside out, if you like - he built this house to enclose the universe, which he called the asylum, and he really thought that was what the universe should be put into, an asylum, and that he would live outside the asylum and look after it.

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  • They didn’t do this for other immigrants, but the word asylum has a strong, almost spiritual pull to it, suggesting suffering in a way that the word guest worker does not.


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  • No wood, however, was placed on the earth, which formed the floor, but it was dry; and although the wind entered it by innumerable chinks, I found it an agreeable asylum from the snow and rain.

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  • The asylum is still being run by lunatics. on March 24, 2010 at 6: 55 pm Concerned

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  • He is requesting asylum from the lunatic fringe that has sunk the GOP.

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  • JM has a meeting with an asylum of managers

    May 26, 2010

  • Contronymic in the sense: freedom (safety) vs. incarceration.

    January 27, 2007