Definition of bedlam in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbɛdləm/


1 [mass noun] A scene of uproar and confusion: there was bedlam in the courtroom
More example sentences
  • But somehow none of them expected that to happen, not after all the confused shouting and general bedlam which had followed those predawn bugle calls.
  • The station became a scene of bedlam as if often does, with its small confines causing waiting outbound passengers to be in the way of arriving passengers.
  • In a now familiar picture of bedlam, spectators and courtroom staff fled in terror and police descended in force upon the prisoners.
2 archaic An institution for the care of mentally ill people.
Example sentences
  • Once, people were shut up in bedlams - usually indefinitely and in terrible conditions.
  • Soviet dissidents were political heretics, and though they did not burn on the stake, they were sent to bedlams for their sins.
  • They have been consulting on what to do with those who have severe personality disorders and they seem set to turn back the clock a century by locking them up in Bedlams and throwing away the key.


Late Middle English: early form of Bethlehem, referring to the hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in London, used as an institution for the insane.

  • The word is a corruption of Bethlehem, from the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem, also known as Bethlem Royal Hospital, in London—what used to be known as an asylum. In the 17th century bedlam became a term for any mental hospital, and from that for any scene of mad confusion.

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