Etymology and usage
Similar terms in other languages have described an event marking migration of a specific population from a place of origin, such as the biblical account of Israelites fleeing from Assyrian conquest (circa 740 BCE) , or the asylum found by the prophet Muhammad and his emigrant companions with helpers in Yathrib (later Medina) after they fled from persecution in Mecca. In English, the term refugee derives from the root word refuge, from Old French refuge, meaning "hiding place". It refers to "shelter or protection from danger or distress", from Latin fugere, "to flee", and refugium, "a taking [of] refuge, place to flee back to". In Western history, the term was first applied to French Protestant Huguenots looking for a safe place against Catholic persecution after the first Edict of Fontainebleau in 1540. The word appeared in the English language when French Huguenots fled to Britain in large numbers after the 1685 Edict of Fontainebleau (the revocation of the 1598 Edict of Nantes) in France and the 1687 Declaration of Indulgence in England and Scotland. The word meant "one seeking asylum", until around 1914, when it evolved to mean "one fleeing home", applied in this instance to civilians in Flanders heading west to escape fighting in World War I.