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[vij-uh-lan-tee] /ˌvɪdʒ əˈlæn ti/
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
Related forms
vigilanteism, vigilantism
[vij-uh-lan-tiz-uh m, vij-uh-luh n-tiz-uh m] /ˌvɪdʒ əˈlæn tɪz əm, ˈvɪdʒ ə lənˌtɪz əm/ (Show IPA),
Can be confused
vigilant, vigilante. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for vigilantes
  • University administrators that try to supplant courts are little more than vigilantes in suits.
  • On their journey they encounter gangs and vigilantes as well as border patrol.
  • Back in the day, vigilantes dressed up in military-style berets and patrolled the streets of gritty neighborhoods.
  • He also had words for vigilantes who have taken the matter into their own hands.
  • If they see the group as vigilantes, they might take a more crime-fighting approach.
  • And yet, it seems likely that economic writers will soon be fretting about those bond vigilantes once again.
  • Budget-makers need not cower before the bond-market vigilantes.
  • vigilantes tussle over who should protect which marketplaces.
  • Gasoline flows at half price in this divided city where customs agents months ago were run out of town by vigilantes.
  • vigilantes were not people who didn't run away to a hotel when they thought an intruder might be coming.
British Dictionary definitions for vigilantes


one of an organized group of citizens who take upon themselves the protection of their district, properties, etc
(US) Also called vigilance man. a member of a vigilance committee
Word Origin
C19: from Spanish, from Latin vigilāre to keep watch
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 vigilantes



"member of a vigilance committee," 1856, American English, from Spanish vigilante, literally "watchman," from Latin 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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