Why Is It Called Bedlam?

Welcome to the fascinating story of why it came to be known as “Bedlam”. We’ll take a journey through the history of the term and it’s link to an old psychiatric hospital in London. Our trip will uncover the stories of why this term was coined and why this name has continued to have an enduring legacy to this day.

Along the way, we’ll uncover some dark stories of how individuals were treated during this time. So fasten your seat belt and let’s get started.

Why is it Called Bedlam?

The name Bedlam originated from the now-infamous London asylum, Bethlem Royal Hospital, which opened in 1247 and was for many generations synonymous with the mistreatment of mental illness.

Today, the term “bedlam” is often used to describe a chaotic and sometimes violent situation, but why did it get its name?

History of the Bethlem Royal Hospital

The Bedlam hospital in London was patronized by the king and queen of England and was the first dedicated psychological institution in the world, treating those struggling with mental health issues. Its name, Bethlem (pronounced “Bedlam”) is derived from the Hebrew phrase ‘Beit Lechem’, meaning ‘house of bread’.

Disturbing Royal Hospital Traditions

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Bethlem Royal Hospital began to be filled with a mixture of social outcasts, including beggars, homeless people, and people with mental health issues who had been abandoned by their families. These patients were subjected to various barbaric treatments, such as being chained up and beaten, and were also treated as entertainment for the wealthy elite. For a penny, visitors could enter the hospital and observe the patients in their day-to-day lives, leading to the phrase ‘to go to Bedlam’.

Popular Usage of “Bedlam”

Over time, the name “Bedlam” evolved to describe any type of chaotic situation, either figuratively or literally, and has come to be used as a common idiom in the English language. It is often used to describe a situation that has become disorderly and is out of control, particularly one that has become violent or unrestrained.


The term “Bedlam” is firmly entrenched in the English language and is widely used to describe any situation that has become chaotic or out of control. Its origin is traced back to the renowned Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, England, which has a long history of treating those with mental health issues, but also of providing perverse entertainment for the wealthy elite in the form of openly observing the patients in their day-to-day lives.

Citations:https://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Bethlem_Royal_Hospitalhttps://www.

verywellmind. com/what-is-the-origin-of-the-term-bedlam-2795960https://www. thefreedictionary. com/bedlam

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