General English


  • noun refuge in a country granted to a person who is subject to extradition by a foreign government


  • noun the right of someone to stay in a country that is not their own when their own country has treated them badly for political reasons

Origin & History of “asylum”

Greek sulon meant ‘right of seizure’. with the addition of the negative prefix a- ‘not’ this was turned into the adjective ásūlos ‘inviolable’, which in turn was nominalized as āsūlon ‘refuge’. when it first entered English, via Latin asȳlum, it was used specifically for ‘place of sanctuary for hunted criminals and others’ (a meaning reflected in modern English ‘political asylum’), and it was not until the mid 18th century that it came to be applied to mental hospitals.