In 1247 CE, a small monastery called St. Mary of Bethlehem was founded in London. It became a part-time hospital in the 1330s, and by the time of the Black Death a few years later, it was a full-time health center. At the dawn of the fifteenth century, they began admitting "lunatic" patients, and in 1547 it dropped any vestiges of being a monastery, officially becoming a city asylum. However, the patients there weren't treated very well, with some being shackled, tortured, or abused. A general atmosphere of bad chaos became associated with the place. Incidentally, over the many years of it being open, people got bored with the whole long name St. Mary of Bethlehem and eventually reduced it to just Bethlehem, which the English accent mangled to Bethlem, a word that was recorded as Bedlam. By now you will have drawn the comparison; today bedlam is a noun meaning "a violet or confusing situation". The word bedlam was used most in the seventeenth century, when it went colloquial, and usage has been decreasing steadily over the past couple decades.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.