Definition of bedlam in US English:



  • 1A scene of uproar and confusion.

    ‘there was bedlam in the courtroom’
    • ‘But somehow none of them expected that to happen, not after all the confused shouting and general bedlam which had followed those predawn bugle calls.’
    • ‘Nearby, Helen flickered back into vision, her face terrified as she surveyed the bedlam which had erupted.’
    • ‘Precisely the kind of person you would expect to turn homespun tranquillity into turmoil and bedlam with her very presence.’
    • ‘The tranquil sounds of nature had been replaced by the familiar cries of bedlam and chaos.’
    • ‘And then of course from then on it was screams and hollering and people drowning and getting hit and ah, and fear it was bedlam, chaos and it took you know it took a while to to to get it all sorted out and under control’
    • ‘In fact, Ian was merely taking cover from the bedlam he had witnessed downstairs at arrivals.’
    • ‘After Colleen claims that Joy tried to sabotage her chances of winning, the meeting turns into bedlam (much to everyone's amusement).’
    • ‘After weeks of upheaval caused by the Lovers Lane shut off, the surprise two week closure of Leigh Road, the main arterial road from Leigh to Atherton on Monday, caused bedlam.’
    • ‘We have thousands of well-tanked people flowing (!) on to the streets of all major towns and cities at a given time of the night when there's bedlam on the streets.’
    • ‘The room soon turned to bedlam as the voices of protest were countered by other delegates who argued that the debate should be allowed to continue, while other bemused bystanders tried to work out the plot.’
    • ‘Back stage was bedlam with singers tuning their voices, make-up artists plying their trade and a lady ironing all the costumes.’
    • ‘I've just been Christmas shopping in Kingston and it's bedlam out there.’
    • ‘She quickly turned back to the bedlam, which, while still loud and raucous, still seemed somehow subdued.’
    • ‘Mr Howard said: ‘The work has to be undertaken for safety reasons alone, but we have to make sure we alleviate problems for others, otherwise it's going to be absolutely bedlam.’’
    • ‘The station became a scene of bedlam as if often does, with its small confines causing waiting outbound passengers to be in the way of arriving passengers.’
    • ‘What I saw was bedlam and someone could easily have been hurt,’ he said.’
    • ‘Predictably today was utter bedlam at work and, apart from a depressing and slightly embarrassing midday chat with the boss about our team's workload, things went entirely as expected.’
    • ‘In a now familiar picture of bedlam, spectators and courtroom staff fled in terror and police descended in force upon the prisoners.’
    • ‘The utter silence of a warrior, in the bedlam of a battlefield.’
    • ‘To switch on the TV is to get instantly drawn into the bedlam of the hospital scenes, the chaos of bodies and patients on stretchers, the exchange of fire, the sheer, anxious horror of it all.’
    uproar, pandemonium, commotion, mayhem, confusion, unrest, furore, upheaval, hubbub, hurly-burly, turmoil, riot, ruckus, tumult, disarray, turbulence
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  • 2archaic An institution for the care of mentally ill people.

    • ‘Soviet dissidents were political heretics, and though they did not burn on the stake, they were sent to bedlams for their sins.’
    • ‘Once, people were shut up in bedlams - usually indefinitely and in terrible conditions.’
    • ‘They have been consulting on what to do with those who have severe personality disorders and they seem set to turn back the clock a century by locking them up in Bedlams and throwing away the key.’
    psychiatric hospital, mental hospital, mental institution, mental asylum, institution
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Late Middle English: early form of Bethlehem, referring to the hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in London, used as an institution for the insane.