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
vigilantismplay \ˌvi-jə-ˈlan-ˌti-zəm\ noun
Examples of vigilante in a Sentence
the danger of these self-appointed vigilantes is that they sometimes go after innocent people
Recent Examples of vigilante from the Web
The police and vigilantes have killed more than 4,000 in the antidrug campaign since Mr. Duterte took office 11 months ago.
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.
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.
Origin and Etymology of vigilante
Spanish, watchman, guard, from vigilante vigilant, from Latin vigilant-, vigilans
First Known Use: 1856
VIGILANTE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of vigilante for English Language Learners
: a person who is not a police officer but who tries to catch and punish criminals
VIGILANTE Defined for Kids
Definition of vigilante for Students
: a member of a group of volunteers who are not police but who decide on their own to stop crime and punish criminals
Seen and Heard
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