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The word asylum has two different meanings, but they are somewhat related. We will examine the definitions of asylum, where this word came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Asylum may mean protection from danger, sanctuary, refuge where one may feel safe. Political asylum is often granted to refugees fleeing a dangerous situation. Asylum may also mean a psychiatric hospital or institution for the mentally ill. This is based on the idea that such institutions offer protection and sanctuary for the mentally ill. This definition of asylum is somewhat archaic, as this use of the word has taken on a negative connotation due to the conditions in early mental hospitals. The word asylum is derived from the Greek word asylon, meaning refuge.


Angelica and her granddaughter were there to meet Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, a Catholic hospitality house in El Paso, who intended to walk them over the bridge so that they could request asylum in the United States. (The New Yorker)

After initially being turned away at the border in El Paso, two families were allowed to enter the United States Wednesday to seek asylum with help from Ruben Garcia, the director of a local shelter who has made a practice of escorting immigrants across the bridge. (The Texas Tribune)

The picture is based on Simon Winchester’s book about the collaboration between Professor James Murray and William Minor, an inmate in a mental asylum, to create the Oxford English Dictionary. (Variety Magazine)

Samantha Long explored what life was like for her grandmother Anne who was confined to a ‘mental asylum’ while Catherine Corless shared the story of Julia Carter Devaney who spent the first 45 years of her life as an unpaid domestic in Tuam’s mother and baby home.  (The Independent)