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See also: Bedlam



From Bedlam, alternative name of the English lunatic asylum, Bethlem Royal Hospital (royal hospital from 1375, mental hospital from 1403) (earlier St Mary of Bethlehem outside Bishopsgate, hospice in existence from 1329, priory established 1247), since used to mean “a place or situation of madness and chaos”. Bedlam as name of hospital attested 1450.

Phonologically, corruption of Bethlem, itself a corruption of Bethlehem (the Biblical town), from Ancient Greek Βηθλεέμ (Bēthleém) from Biblical Hebrew בֵּית לֶחֶם(bêṯ leḥem, literally house of bread).


  • IPA(key): /ˈbɛdləm/
  • (file)


bedlam (plural bedlams)

  1. A place or situation of chaotic uproar, and where confusion prevails.
    • 1888, H.H. Giles, The Insane, and the Wisconsin System for their Care, page 18:
      Some of the wards were veritable "bedlams," and discharged patients have told of abuses practiced in them of which the mere recital causes a shudder.
    • 2002, Mark L. Friedman, Everyday Crisis Management, page 134:
      The outside of the Hyatt was bedlam. There was a group of more than a hundred injured people on the circular drive in front of the hotel.
    • 2005, Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, page 31:
      A car was a rarity, and the sight of one in the distance was sometimes enough to cause bedlam during a class.
    • 2020 June 3, Sam Mullins OBE discusses with Stefanie Foster, “LTM: a new chapter begins at 40”, in Rail, page 54:
      "We had an extraordinary February half term - I think we had 22,000 visitors in the seven days. Which actually is a bit like bedlam at times."
  2. (obsolete) An insane person; a lunatic; a madman.
  3. (obsolete) A lunatic asylum; a madhouse.

Derived terms[edit]


  • Russian: бедла́м (bedlám)


Further reading[edit]