Definition of asylum in English:

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Pronunciation: /əˈsīləm/


1 (also political asylum) The protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee: she applied for asylum and was granted refugee status
More example sentences
  • In June 2004 the Home Office refused to grant him asylum and was going to send him back to Iran.
  • Each year, a smaller proportion of asylum applications is being granted.
  • Rape is routinely used as a weapon of war, but rape victims are rarely granted asylum.
1.1Shelter or protection from danger: we provide asylum for those too ill to care for themselves
refuge, sanctuary, shelter, safety, protection, security, immunity;
a safe haven
2 dated An institution offering shelter and support to people who are mentally ill: he’d been committed to an asylum
More example sentences
  • Moreover, most of them languish in mental asylums and hospitals without being visited or taken care of by their relatives.
  • We should have institutions and asylums where we can put those people and care for them, and where they are protected from society and society is protected from them.
  • Once upon a time there were big Victorian asylums where the mentally ill were institutionalised.
psychiatric hospital, mental hospital, mental institution, mental asylum
informal madhouse, loony bin, funny farm, nuthouse, bughouse
dated lunatic asylum
archaic bedlam


Late Middle English (in the sense 'place of refuge', especially for criminals): via Latin from Greek asulon 'refuge', from asulos 'inviolable', from a- 'without' + sulon 'right of seizure'. The current senses date from the 18th century.

  • At first an asylum was a ‘place of refuge, especially for criminals’; it came via Latin from Greek asulon ‘refuge’, from a- ‘without’, and sulon ‘right of seizure’. Current senses referring to political refuge or to an institution for the mentally ill, date from the 18th century.

Words that rhyme with asylum

hilum, phylum, whilom

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: a·sy·lum

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