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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.
Origin of vigil
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 vigil
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But it will never do to begin the night's vigil in this low key.

  • He cleared the room, and took up his vigil outside the door.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • For though she knew the uselessness of the vigil proposed to her, she none the less determined to complete it.

    The Sword of Damocles Anna Katharine Green
  • Of everything else—the vigil, the preparations, the funeral—he remembered nothing.

  • We believe he heard some expert opinions on the subject of the "roncadors" of the camp during his vigil.

British Dictionary definitions for vigil


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 vigil

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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