Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A place or situation of noisy uproar and confusion.
  • noun Archaic An insane asylum.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun [capitalized] The hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, originally a priory, founded about 1247, but afterward used as an asylum for lunatics.
  • noun Hence A madhouse; a lunatic asylum.
  • noun A scene of wild uproar and confusion.
  • noun An inmate or a patient of Bethlehem Hospital, or Bedlam; specifically, one discharged as cured (though often only partially cured) and licensed to beg.
  • noun Hence In general, a madman; a lunatic.
  • Belonging to or fit for a bedlam or madhouse; mad; mentally deranged.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A place appropriated to the confinement and care of the insane; a madhouse.
  • noun obsolete An insane person; a lunatic; a madman.
  • noun Any place where uproar and confusion prevail.
  • adjective Belonging to, or fit for, a madhouse.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A place or situation of chaotic uproar, and where confusion prevails.

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

  • noun a state of extreme confusion and disorder
  • noun pejorative terms for an insane asylum

Etymologies

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

[Middle English Bedlem, Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem, an institution in London for the mentally ill .]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Bedlam, alternative name of the English lunatic asylum, Bethlem Royal Hospital (royal hospital from 1375, mental hospital from 1403) (earlier St Mary of Bethlehem outside Bishopsgate, hospice in existence from 1329, priory established 1247), sense used to mean “a place or situation of madness and chaos”. Bedlam as name of hospital attested 1450.

Examples

  • N.B. apologizes for H1N1 vaccination 'bedlam' health is apologizing for what he describes as the bedlam that surrounded the H1N1 vaccine rollout in October.

    WN.com - Articles related to Need for H1N1 shots in Lucas County gets more urgent

  • The trick to semi-managing all this happy bedlam is to invite a few school teachers.

    Christmas in the Sierra Madre mountains

  • The trick to semi-managing all this happy bedlam is to invite a few school teachers.

    Christmas in the Sierra Madre mountains

  • Cutting to the Chase - film reviews and news from Oklahoma firedoglake - where "bedlam is dreaming of rain"

    March 2005

  • Every man set to work for himself, and it was again bedlam broke loose as at the other plantation.

    The Heart's Highway: A Romance of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century

  • In one asylum in London, St. Mary's of Bethlehem Hospital - form which the word bedlam is derived - the public could buy tickets to observe the antics of the inmates, much as we would pay to see a circus sideshow or animals at the zoo.

    Recently Uploaded Slideshows

  • Bethlem's name gave rise to the word bedlam, and comes from a shortened version of St Mary Bethlehem, the name of one of the oldest asylums in the western world.

    From Bethlem to Bedlam

  • The apparent disorderliness of many things in decision making has led some people to argue that there is very little order to collective choice and that it is best described as bedlam.

    Rediscovering Institutions

  • The apparent disorderliness of many things in decision making has led some people to argue that there is very little order to collective choice and that it is best described as bedlam.

    Rediscovering Institutions

  • The apparent disorderliness of many things in decision making has led some people to argue that there is very little order to collective choice and that it is best described as bedlam.

    Rediscovering Institutions

Comments

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  • Interesting (from Google's def):

    "The Bethlem Royal Hospital of London, which has been variously known as Bethlem Hospital, Bethlehem Hospital and Bedlam, is the world's oldest psychiatric hospital. Bethlehem was shortened to Bedleem and Bedlem in Middle English. The hospital was nicknamed Bedlam from early on. From the early 16th century, bedlam also came to mean `mad'. Shakespeare, in Henry 6th, speaks of "the bedlam brain-sick duchess" (1590s?). This use lasted to the early 18th century, but the late 16th century was already using bedlamite."

    April 13, 2007

  • Patiomensch, I remember that I started liking this word when I learned its history. Fascinating. :-)

    April 13, 2007

  • My fifth grade teacher said to the class "It's bedlam in here." I could not have been more shocked. I thought Mrs. Wolf had said a Bad Word. Perhaps like (gasp) h-e-l-l.

    June 27, 2007

  • This word has always reminded me of Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

    June 27, 2007

  • "In the abrupt bedlam, I could hear more then one person shouting my name."- Twilight, Stephanie Meyer, pg. 57

    October 27, 2010