vig·il | \ ˈvi-jəl \

Definition of vigil 

1 : the act of keeping awake at times when sleep is customary also : a period of wakefulness

2 : an event or a period of time when a person or group stays in a place and quietly waits, prays, etc., especially at night a candlelight vigil kept vigil at her bedside

3a : a watch formerly kept on the night before a religious feast with prayer or other devotions

b : the day before a religious feast observed as a day of spiritual preparation

c : evening or nocturnal devotions or prayers usually used in plural

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Examples of vigil in a Sentence

kept vigil at their ailing son's bedside the entire time he was in the hospital

Recent Examples on the Web

Monday evening roughly 1,500 people turned out at a vigil honoring members of refugee families targeted in the stabbing. Rebecca Boone, The Seattle Times, "Hundreds mourn at vigil for victims of Idaho birthday party attack," 3 July 2018 And Martha, there are a number of services, there are a number of vigils being held here in Annapolis tonight. Fox News, "Scaramucci on Trump's Supreme Court pick, WH staff rumors," 30 June 2018 In an aching silence, the family members of slain Wyandotte County Deputies Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer in the front rows of a candlelight vigil Sunday night wrapped their arms together more tightly. Joe Robertson And Ian Cummings, kansascity, "'Hungering for goodness and justice': Mourners gather in KCK to honor slain deputies," 17 June 2018 Jon was part of the candlelight vigil later held at the Tennessee barn where Erin first learned to ride. Paul Larosa, CBS News, "Search for missing Marine wife "like finding a needle in a thousand haystacks”," 12 June 2018 On Sunday, Richard Chow, Mr. Chow’s older brother, went to the street where the police found the taxi as part of a vigil that drew dozens of the driver’s friends and fellow cabbies on a bleak afternoon. New York Times, "Another Taxi Driver in Debt Takes His Life. That’s 5 in 5 Months.," 27 May 2018 Footage also shows scenes of the vigil for shooting victims, a concert and the March for Our Lives rally. Lisa Marie Segarra, Time, "Parkland Students Just Released a Touching Music Video to Honor the 17 Victims of the Shooting," 5 May 2018 Attendees of a prayer vigil later that day also were beaten by officers. Michael Livingston,, "How MLK's death affected a nation, as told by those who remember it," 3 Apr. 2018 Participants of candlelight vigil for Stephon Clark on Friday Hector Amezcua The Bee's Ryan Lillis and Sam Stanton contributed to this report. Anita Chabria, sacbee, "Protesters rage at police, but not at their boss. Can he satisfy the community and the cops? | The Sacramento Bee," 24 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vigil.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of vigil

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

History and Etymology for vigil

Middle English vigile, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin & Latin; Late Latin vigilia watch on the eve of a feast, from Latin, wakefulness, watch, from vigil awake, watchful; akin to Latin vigēre to be vigorous, vegēre to enliven — more at wake

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Learn More about vigil

Phrases Related to vigil

keep vigil

Statistics for vigil

Last Updated

9 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for vigil

The first known use of vigil was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for vigil



English Language Learners Definition of vigil

: an event or a period of time when a person or group stays in a place and quietly waits, prays, etc., especially at night


vig·il | \ ˈvi-jəl \

Kids Definition of vigil

: an act of keeping watch especially when sleep is usual

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