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[vij-uh l] /ˈvɪdʒ əl/
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.
  1. a devotional watching, or keeping awake, during the customary hours of sleep.
  2. Sometimes, vigils. a nocturnal devotional exercise or service, especially on the eve before a church festival.
  3. 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. 2015.
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Examples from the web for vigils
  • The page contains detailed information about community vigils, links to news reports and words of support and remembrance.
  • Thousands have joined torchlight vigils in her memory.
  • After repeated press reports and non-stop candle-lit vigils, a sixth decided to follow suit.
  • None of the other vigils attracted more than a few hundred people.
  • Walk through the cemeteries at night to see the elaborate candle-lit vigils people have created for their ancestors.
  • Candlelight vigils were held worldwide until he died five days later barely alive.
  • The pattern of closings has emerged across the country, sometimes leading to protest vigils and church occupations.
  • Militant suffragists used tactics such as parades, silent vigils, and hunger strikes.
  • Several vigils have been held and a memorial has been erected at the scene of the collision.
  • Repeat visits to families and neighborhoods, as well as candlelight vigils are examples.
British Dictionary definitions for vigils


a purposeful watch maintained, esp at night, to guard, observe, pray, etc
the period of such a watch
(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
a period of sleeplessness; insomnia
Word Origin
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 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for vigils



early 13c., "eve of a religious festival" (an occasion for devotional watching or observance), from Anglo-French and Old French vigile, from Latin vigilia "watch, watchfulness," from vigil "watchful, awake," from PIE *wog-/*weg- "be lively or active, be strong" (cf. Latin vigere "be lively, thrive," velox "fast, lively," vegere "to enliven;" Sanskrit vaja- "strength, speed;" Old English wacan "to wake up, arise," wacian "to be awake;" Old High German 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 Article for vigils


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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