"scene of mad confusion," 1660s, from colloquial pronunciation of "Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem" in London, founded 1247 as a priory, mentioned as a hospital 1330 and as a lunatic hospital 1402; it was converted to a civic lunatic asylum on dissolution of the monasteries in 1547. It was spelled Bedlem in a will from 1418, and Betleem is recorded as a spelling of Bethlehem in Judea from 971. The proper name might be caught in transition in the title of John Davies' 1617 publication of humorous poetry, "Wits bedlam —where is had, whipping-cheer, to cure the mad."
word-forming element indicating origin or derivation from, from French -ite and directly from Latin -ita, from Greek -ites (fem. -itis), word-forming element making adjectives and nouns meaning "connected with or belonging to." Especially used in classical times to form ethnic and local designations (for example in Septuagint translations of Hebrew names in -i) and for names of gems and minerals.