(especially formerly) an institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill, orphans, or other persons requiring specialized assistance.
an inviolable refuge, as formerly for criminals and debtors; sanctuary:
He sought asylum in the church.
International Law.

a refuge granted an alien by a sovereign state on its own territory.
a temporary refuge granted political offenders, especially in a foreign embassy.

any secure retreat.
Contemporary Examples

Sofía, a 25-year-old woman who has applied for asylum and also requested anonymity, was held for two weeks.
Immigrants Held in Border Deep Freezers Rachael Bale, The Center for Investigative Reporting November 18, 2013

“Maybe the lunatics really have taken over the asylum,” one former Murdoch tabloid editor mused to me.
Murdoch’s Crazy Gang Andrew Neil July 11, 2009

Upon entry, he walked up to the first immigration officer he saw, and asked for asylum.
LGBT Asylum Seekers Need America More Than Ever Gene Robinson June 28, 2014

The children of asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa will go to their kindergartens and all the other kids will go to their own.
Israel’s Most Liberal City Introduces Racially Segregated Kindergartens Lisa Goldman August 22, 2013

For those who may have valid claims to asylum, this will be their first opportunity to raise them.
Private Prisons Rule With Little Oversight on America’s Border Caitlin Dickson June 19, 2014

Historical Examples

I am grateful also for the asylum which I have since found under your roof.
Tales of My Time, Vol. 1 (of 3) William Pitt Scargill

Advocated with more heat than light by the outmates of every asylum for the insane.
The Devil’s Dictionary Ambrose Bierce

It was also asserted that the Commissioners had recognised him as the chaplain of the asylum.
Norfolk Annals Charles Mackie

They picked up the ladder and looked toward the asylum building.
Frank Roscoe’s Secret Allen Chapman

If his friends gave him an asylum in their houses, 20 those houses were forthwith turned into bagnios and taverns.
Macaulay’s Life of Samuel Johnson Thomas Babington Macaulay

a safe or inviolable place of refuge, esp as formerly offered by the Christian Church to criminals, outlaws, etc; sanctuary (often in the phrase give asylum to)
shelter; refuge
(international law) refuge afforded to a person whose extradition is sought by a foreign government: political asylum
(obsolete) an institution for the shelter, treatment, or confinement of individuals, esp a mental hospital (formerly termed lunatic asylum)

early 15c., earlier asile (late 14c.), from Latin asylum “sanctuary,” from Greek asylon “refuge,” noun use of neuter of asylos “inviolable, safe from violence,” especially of persons seeking protection, from a- “without” + syle “right of seizure.” So literally “an inviolable place.” General sense of “safe or secure place” is from 1640s; meaning “benevolent institution to shelter some class of persons” is from 1776.

asylum a·sy·lum (ə-sī’ləm)
An institution for the care of people, especially individuals with physical or mental impairments, who require organized supervision or assistance.

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