Definition of asylum in English:



  • 1also political asylummass noun The protection granted by a state to someone who has left their home country as a political refugee.

    ‘she applied for asylum and was granted refugee status’
    as modifier ‘his asylum application was refused’
    • ‘Doctors recommended the family be granted asylum on humanitarian grounds.’
    • ‘They came here seeking political asylum, and now we're at war with the country they're seeking asylum from.’
    • ‘He was granted asylum, grew up in Brighton and applied for British citizenship.’
    • ‘If asylum is not granted and they are not given refugee status, they may be deported.’
    • ‘In June 2004 the Home Office refused to grant him asylum and was going to send him back to Iran.’
    • ‘It sounds as if, as we heard, he is being granted asylum by the president of Nigeria.’
    • ‘Denied political asylum and protection, he's now urgently seeking a refugee visa.’
    • ‘Now she is to go before a panel of Home Office officials to try to persuade them to grant her mother asylum.’
    • ‘Omar, a Syrian, resides in Britain, which granted him political asylum years ago.’
    • ‘He is now staying with friends in Levenshulme and plans to appeal against refusal to grant him asylum.’
    • ‘At present, the Secretary of State grants asylum to all such claimants.’
    • ‘Each year, a smaller proportion of asylum applications is being granted.’
    • ‘Rape is routinely used as a weapon of war, but rape victims are rarely granted asylum.’
    • ‘Home Office officials believed his story and granted asylum to him and his wife and children.’
    • ‘As for Ghazal, if she were granted asylum she would like to go to school in America.’
    • ‘They spent two years behind bars before they were granted asylum by the courts.’
    • ‘The son of a man sentenced to death in the Yemen fears his life may also be in danger unless he is granted asylum.’
    • ‘Makine was born in Russia but was granted asylum in France in 1987 when he was 30.’
    • ‘The authorities in Dover granted him asylum and he set up home in Bolton.’
    • ‘Now living in Glasgow, he has been granted asylum and, at 31, has started anew.’
    • ‘Some have recently been granted asylum on the basis of having an Irish child.’
    1. 1.1 Shelter or protection from danger.
      ‘we provide asylum for those too ill to care for themselves’
      refuge, sanctuary, shelter, safety, safe keeping, protection, security, immunity
      View synonyms
  • 2dated An institution for the care of people who are mentally ill.

    ‘he'd been committed to an asylum’
    • ‘Moreover, most of them languish in mental asylums and hospitals without being visited or taken care of by their relatives.’
    • ‘Once upon a time there were big Victorian asylums where the mentally ill were institutionalised.’
    • ‘The 1901 census revealed that more than 13,000 people were living in asylums, officially classed as lunatics or imbeciles.’
    • ‘Countless schools, hospitals and asylums were built.’
    • ‘We should have institutions and asylums where we can put those people and care for them, and where they are protected from society and society is protected from them.’
    • ‘You have to remember that in those days, there were hundreds and hundreds of people confined to mental asylums in appalling conditions with very few treatments available.’
    psychiatric hospital, mental hospital, mental institution, mental asylum, institution
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘place of refuge’, especially for criminals): via Latin from Greek asulon ‘refuge’, from asulos ‘inviolable’, from a- ‘without’ + sulon ‘right of seizure’. Current senses date from the 18th century.