wakefulness maintained for any reason during the normal hours for sleeping.
a watch or a period of watchful attention maintained at night or at other times: The nurse kept her vigil at the bedside of the dying man.
a period of wakefulness from inability to sleep.
a devotional watching, or keeping awake, during the customary hours of sleep.
Sometimes, vigils. a nocturnal devotional exercise or service, especially on the eve before a church festival.
the eve, or day and night, before a church festival, especially an eve that is a fast.

1200–50; Middle English vigil(i)e < Anglo-French < Medieval Latin vigilia eve of a holy day, special use of Latin vigilia watchfulness, equivalent to vigil sentry + -ia -y3 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
vigil (ˈvɪdʒɪl)
1.  a purposeful watch maintained, esp at night, to guard, observe, pray, etc
2.  the period of such a watch
3.  RC Church, Church of England the eve of certain major festivals, formerly observed as a night spent in prayer: often marked by fasting and abstinence and a special Mass and divine office
4.  a period of sleeplessness; insomnia
[C13: from Old French vigile, from Medieval Latin vigilia watch preceding a religious festival, from Latin: vigilance, from vigil alert, from vigēre to be lively]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

early 13c., "eve of a religious festival" (an occasion for devotional watching or observance), from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. vigile, from L. vigilia "watch, watchfulness," from vigil "watchful, awake," from PIE *wog-/*weg- "be lively or active, be strong" (cf. L. vigere "be lively, thrive," velox "fast, lively,"
vegere "to enliven;" Skt. vaja- "strength, speed;" O.E. wacan "to wake up, arise," wacian "to be awake;" O.H.G. wahta "watch, vigil"). Meaning "watch kept on a festival eve" is from late 14c.; that of "occasion of keeping awake for some purpose" is recorded from 1711.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


watch or vigil held over the body of a dead person before burial and sometimes accompanied by festivity; also, in England, a vigil kept in commemoration of the dedication of the parish church. The latter type of wake consisted of an all-night service of prayer and meditation in the church. These services, officially termed Vigiliae by the church, appear to have existed from the earliest days of Anglo-Saxon Christianity. Each parish kept the morrow of its vigil as a holiday. Wakes soon degenerated into fairs; people from neighbouring parishes journeyed over to join in the merrymaking, and the revelry and drunkenness became a scandal. The days usually chosen for church dedications being Sundays and saints' days, the abuse seemed all the more scandalous. In 1445 Henry VI attempted to suppress markets and fairs on Sundays and holy days

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
There was the sunrise-to-sunset vigil to observe the park's first nesting green
Each spring they pitch tents on the beach or crash in rental houses, keeping
  vigil via telescope.
Part of his morning vigil includes inspecting projects he helped with.
It was left to a handful of workers' rights advocates to hold a quiet
  candlelight vigil in his honor.
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