Definition of alienist in US English:



  • 1

    former term for psychiatrist
    • ‘Theorists in the first period included travelers, military physicians, and alienists who examined Algerian lunatics and collectively found them less prone to madness than civilized Europeans.’
    • ‘On this side were the ex-physician to the viceroy of Egypt, Franz Pruner-Bey, the former Martinique physician Etienne Rufz de Lavison, and the alienist Louis-Jean Delasiauve.’
    • ‘The alienist says that Mr. Dundas is a severe melancholic.’
    • ‘On to this Stoker pasted some new-fangled psychiatric theory, derived from the French alienist Charcot, one of Freud's main precursors.’
    • ‘The medical profession complained incessantly about the rules, and in lectures, articles and books alienists argued that they alone possessed the necessary qualifications to judge criminal responsibility.’
    1. 1.1US A psychiatrist who assesses the competence of a defendant in a court of law.
      • ‘Alienists appointed by the court in insanity cases should be deemed to be the court's own witnesses.’
      • ‘The alienist thus comes into court with a friendly feeling towards the lawyers for the defense together with a sympathy for the accused.’
      • ‘And now I know from what sources some of the criminal court alienists of today were derived.’
      • ‘The court decided to continue the hearing for another week, during which time the testimony of the alienists will be put in the hands of other medical men, who will in turn observe Mrs. Gage.’
      • ‘Under the California Penal Code, whenever a defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity the court must select and appoint two alienists to examine the defendant and investigate his sanity.’


Mid 19th century: from French aliéniste, based on Latin alienus ‘of another’ (see alien).