vig·​il | \ ˈvi-jəl How to pronounce vigil (audio) \

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 Before that vigil, Phoebe, who requested to use her first name for privacy concerns, had never seen so much unity., "Lexington teen’s ‘We are Proud to be Asian’ song inspires weekend rally at Boston Common," 9 Apr. 2021 Moving forward At Saturday’s vigil, friends and neighbors clustered in small groups outside the home as a private security guard from the company Post Alarm stood by. Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, "A young talent killed, a neighborhood fed up, and a critical moment in L.A.’s homelessness crisis," 4 Apr. 2021 In addition, the groups began talking about hosting a community vigil, where open dialogue could occur and those affected by the recent events could share their feelings and experiences. Steve Schering,, "Following spa shootings, OPRF students organize community vigil to support Asian Americans," 27 Mar. 2021 Utahns gathered at the Salt Lake Community College’s South City Campus on Friday afternoon to participate in a vigil for the people, including six women of Asian descent, who died in this week’s mass shooting in Atlanta. Trent Nelson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Vigil held to honor victims of Atlanta shooting," 19 Mar. 2021 Honoring a ‘giant in the faith’ About 200 people gathered at the vigil, where speakers and performers said Omar Jahwar’s belief in God inspired them to call the gathering a celebration. Dallas News, "Bishop Omar Jahwar honored as community leader after his death from COVID-19 complications," 17 Mar. 2021 Political focus has shifted onto London’s Metropolitan Police in recent days after the vigil, which police said breached COVID-19 lockdown rules, according to Reuters. David Aaro, Fox News, "London protesters arrested at demonstration over policing powers and vigil of Sarah Everard," 16 Mar. 2021 Organizers from a group called Reclaim These Streets called it off, but another group went ahead with a vigil, which was subsequently broken up by police. James Hookway, WSJ, "What Happened to Sarah Everard? The London Woman Whose Death Prompted a Safety Debate in the U.K.," 15 Mar. 2021 Organizers had planned an official vigil at Clapham Common, near where Everard was last seen alive, but were forced to cancel the event because of COVID-19 restrictions. John Bacon, USA TODAY, "'Shame on you': Fury grows over London police officers' aggressive tactics in breaking up vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard," 14 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for vigil

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for vigil

Last Updated

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vigil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce vigil (audio) \

Kids Definition of vigil

: an act of keeping watch especially when sleep is usual

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Comments on vigil

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