Definition of asylum in English:

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Pronunciation: /əˈsʌɪləm/


1 [mass noun] (also political asylum) The protection granted by a state to someone who has left their home country as a political refugee: she applied for asylum and was granted refugee status [as modifier]: his asylum application was refused
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, safe keeping, protection, security, immunity;
haven, safe haven, retreat, sanctum, harbour, port in a storm, oasis;
safe house, fastness, hideaway, hideout, bolt-hole, foxhole, hiding place, den
2 dated An institution for the care of 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, institution
informal madhouse, nuthouse, loony bin, funny farm
North American informal bughouse, booby hatch
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'. 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

Line breaks: asy¦lum

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