a member of a vigilance committee.
any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.
done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures: vigilante justice.

1825–35, Americanism; < Spanish: vigilant

vigilanteism, vigilantism [vij-uh-lan-tiz-uhm, vij-uh-luhn-tiz-uhm] , noun

vigilant, vigilante. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
vigilante (ˌvɪdʒɪˈlæntɪ)
1.  one of an organized group of citizens who take upon themselves the protection of their district, properties, etc
2.  (US) Also called: vigilance man a member of a vigilance committee
[C19: from Spanish, from Latin vigilāre to keep watch]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"member of a vigilance committee," 1856, Amer.Eng., from Sp. vigilante, lit. "watchman," from L. vigilantem (see vigilance). Vigilant man in same sense is attested from 1824 in a Missouri context. Vigilance committees kept informal rough order on the frontier or in other
places where official authority was imperfect.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
If you become militant or try to be a vigilante you are only going to cause
They held vigilante patrols to enforce public morals.
If so, you're saying that you would condon vigilante geoengineering.
Mo, as an example of vigilante action by a community angry at a town bully.
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