WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2017
a•sy•lum /əˈsaɪləm/USA pronunciation   n. 
  1. Psychiatry[countable] (esp. formerly) an institution for the care esp. of the mentally ill, orphans, or the poor.
  2. [uncountable] protection given to a person or group, esp. political refugees.
  3. a place of safety or refuge: [uncountable]He sought asylum far from his native land.[countable]countries that were asylums for refugees.

WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2017
a•sy•lum  (ə sīləm),USA pronunciation n. 
  1. Psychiatry(esp. formerly) an institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill, orphans, or other persons requiring specialized assistance.
  2. an inviolable refuge, as formerly for criminals and debtors;
    sanctuary:He sought asylum in the church.
  3. International Relations, Law
    • a refuge granted an alien by a sovereign state on its own territory.
    • a temporary refuge granted political offenders, esp. in a foreign embassy.
  4. any secure retreat.
  • Greek ásȳlon sanctuary, equivalent. to a- a-6 + sŷlon right of seizure
  • Latin
  • 1400–50; late Middle English;
    • 2.See corresponding entry in Unabridged haven, shelter, retreat.


Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

asylum /əˈsaɪləm/ n
  1. a safe or inviolable place of refuge, esp as formerly offered by the Christian Church to criminals, outlaws, etc; sanctuary (often in the phrase give asylum to)
  2. shelter; refuge
  3. refuge afforded to a person whose extradition is sought by a foreign government: political asylum
  4. obsolete an institution for the shelter, treatment, or confinement of individuals, esp a mental hospital (formerly termed lunatic asylum)
Etymology: 15th Century: via Latin from Greek asulon refuge, from asulos that may not be seized, from a-1 + sulon right of seizure



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