vigilante

noun
vig·​i·​lan·​te | \ ˌvi-jə-ˈlan-tē \

Definition of vigilante 

: a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate) broadly : a self-appointed doer of justice

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Other Words from vigilante

vigilantism \ ˌvi-​jə-​ˈlan-​ˌti-​zəm \ noun

The Meaning and Origin of Vigilante

Vigilante entered English in the 19th century, borrowed from the Spanish word of the same spelling which meant “watchman, guard” in that language. The Spanish word can be traced back to the Latin vigilare, meaning “to keep awake.” The earliest use of the word in English was to refer to a member of a vigilance committee, a committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily, as when the processes of law appear inadequate. The word may often be found in an attributive role, as in the phrases “vigilante justice,” or “vigilante group.” In this slightly broadened sense it carries the suggestion of the enforcement of laws without regard to due process or the general rule of law.

Examples of vigilante in a Sentence

the danger of these self-appointed vigilantes is that they sometimes go after innocent people

Recent Examples on the Web

But as our government ceases to function in normal and needed ways the power of social media vigilantes has grown. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "The Supremacy of the Internet Mob," 19 Apr. 2018 In 1993’s Venom: Lethal Protector, written by Michelinie and drawn by main artist Mark Bagley, Venom serves as a vigilante of sorts and protects the poor and homeless people in San Francisco. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Venom, Spider-Man’s symbiote supervillain, explained," 3 Oct. 2018 Where other vigilantes might appeal to their own, individual codes of justice, the preacher figure carries the authority to discharge God’s justice. Steve Pinkerton, Houston Chronicle, "Why Americans are fascinated by gunfighting preachers," 7 July 2018 Literally, there were vigilantes that would sit across the alley from it and just wait. refinery29.com, "IRL Besties Jonathan Van Ness & Margaret Cho Tell Us Their Best Pride Stories," 15 June 2018 Venom’s co-creator McFarlane, who first gained acclaim working on Spider-Man, would go on to create Spawn, a comic book about a demonic vigilante that was wildly popular in the ’90s. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Venom, Spider-Man’s symbiote supervillain, explained," 3 Oct. 2018 But in January, this same vigilante group killed three dogs and nobody got in trouble. New York Times, "Killer Dogs Take 14 Lives. Did Closing Slaughterhouses Play a Role?," 22 May 2018 Boots have also been subject to attack from vigilantes, too. Steve Rousseau, Popular Mechanics, "Can the Parking Boot Be Beat?," 6 June 2013 Various rights groups estimate the real toll at well over 10,000 and includes targeted executions by unknown killers or vigilantes. Jake Maxwell Watts, WSJ, "Catholic Church Opens Sanctuaries to the Hunted in Philippines Drug War," 5 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vigilante.' 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 vigilante

1856, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for vigilante

Spanish, watchman, guard, from vigilante vigilant, from Latin vigilant-, vigilans

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Statistics for vigilante

Last Updated

21 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for vigilante

The first known use of vigilante was in 1856

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More Definitions for vigilante

vigilante

noun

English Language Learners Definition of vigilante

: a person who is not a police officer but who tries to catch and punish criminals

vigilante

noun
vig·​i·​lan·​te | \ ˌvi-jə-ˈlan-tē \

Kids Definition of vigilante

: a member of a group of volunteers who are not police but who decide on their own to stop crime and punish criminals

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More from Merriam-Webster on vigilante

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with vigilante

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vigilante

Spanish Central: Translation of vigilante

Nglish: Translation of vigilante for Spanish Speakers

Comments on vigilante

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