One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Originally cant. The precinct of Whitefriars in London, where debtors and criminals were immune from arrest. Now historical.
2Allusively. A sanctuary for criminals; a lawless place.
Late 17th century. From Alsatia, † Alsacia (German Elsass, French Alsace), former name in English of an area of Europe bordering Germany and Switzerland and now forming part of France from post-classical Latin Alsatia, a borrowing of the German name for the region, itself of uncertain origin.
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