Definition of vigil in US English:



  • 1A period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch or pray.

    ‘my birdwatching vigils lasted for hours’
    ‘as he lay in a coma the family kept vigil’
    • ‘Since the executions were held very early in the mornings, we found that prisoners kept vigil through the night, staying awake with the woman who was to be executed.’
    • ‘It might have been her outpouring of love and grief, it might have been her courage in driving away the wild animals, the length of her lonely vigil on the mountain, or a combination of these.’
    • ‘For two weeks, various members of the family kept vigil by his bedside in intensive care.’
    • ‘The press was informed and, as older people will remember, it seemed that the whole world gathered in a vigil around his deathbed.’
    • ‘They have welcomed the family into the church where parishioners and the vicar are keeping a round-the-clock vigil over them.’
    • ‘But when I came and kept vigil in his armchair while he lay on his left ribs, his back rolled around him like an exoskeleton, all night I stared at his books neat in their shelves.’
    • ‘Two nights before she died, there was an all-night vigil at her bedside.’
    • ‘We kept vigil by his bedside for hours until for me three in the morning and for my mother four in the morning.’
    • ‘Abandoned by their father, forsaken by neighbors, Bolas and the children kept vigil over their mother.’
    • ‘While she spent her evenings preparing, he maintained an intermittent vigil at the bedroom window, offering some grudging help between observing sessions.’
    • ‘She was later transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London where her parents were this morning keeping a bedside vigil.’
    • ‘A loyal dog kept vigil for more than a week beside a woman who died in her Bolton home.’
    • ‘If we could take a look now at those live pictures of St. Peter's Square, to an estimated 70,000 people have gathered to maintain a vigil and to pray for the pope.’
    • ‘In the old days families kept vigil and ate little ‘Soul’ cakes.’
    • ‘Some fans were seen weeping and praying for his fast recovery while others kept vigil in a nearby church.’
    • ‘For the next three days we kept vigil at his bed in the private clinic.’
    • ‘A mourner, fallen asleep in a late-night vigil, awakes the next morning to find that not only are his trousers missing, but the corpse has been stolen as well.’
    • ‘Parents kept vigil, wrapped in blankets before fires at the site of the catastrophe amid the silence of those buried under the mountain of masonry.’
    • ‘Now Lauren, from Worsley, and her partner, Ashley Easdale, are keeping a bedside vigil to watch his progress.’
    • ‘Now parents will be able to take a break from their bedside vigil happy they can watch their child's every movement on a TV screen in a private room downstairs.’
    vigilance, watch, close watch, monitoring, policing, surveillance, sentry duty
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    1. 1.1 A stationary, peaceful demonstration in support of a particular cause, typically without speeches.
      • ‘Please bring everyone you know to the vigil this Monday evening at Aotea Square at 6pm.’
      • ‘N.O.W. was planning to hold a candlelight vigil outside the jail where Yates is being held.’
      • ‘Bird watchers have held nightly vigils in front of the property.’
      • ‘A number of Church of England dioceses have organised peace vigils to coincide with the demonstration.’
      • ‘The local authorities' campaign headquarters plans to hold protest vigils outside the treasury every few days, each time representing two different municipalities.’
      • ‘Look at how a few NGO groups last year used peaceful candlelight vigils for their own selfish purposes to galvanize public opinion.’
      • ‘On the eve of the ceremony hundreds of Rome's Jews and Catholics protested against the beatification in a candlelight vigil.’
      • ‘A number of rallies, vigils and demonstrations took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the smaller cities and towns in the surrounding tri-state area.’
      • ‘Several shoppers and passers-by paused to observe the vigil.’
      • ‘Demonstrations and vigils began as soon as news of the hostages reached Japan.’
      • ‘On that day there must be demonstrations and vigils around the country.’
      • ‘The Boston Globe today had this article on the vigils supporting Sheehan and her cause.’
      • ‘Across town the 74 year old archbishop had organised a vigil in support of those arrested, which saw loads of young and old people pack into the cathedral.’
      • ‘According to Janna Bowman of Witness for Peace, the vigils calling for an investigation are making an impact.’
      • ‘Banner-waving supporters demonstrated and held prayer vigils on Hill's behalf.’
      • ‘MoMA's third floor was the unwilling host to occasional antiwar vigils.’
      • ‘After the lecture he left central hall passing some protestors holding a silent vigil about Zimbabwe.’
      • ‘Last weekend's demonstrations follow rallies, vigils and meetings throughout the country.’
      • ‘Over 300 people attended the vigil in support of the family, with about 150 joining a subsequent march on New Scotland Yard.’
      • ‘I've joined in many peace vigils, rallies, and marches the past several months, and pardon me if this seems shallow, but where are the tunes?’
      • ‘On March 27, about 200 teachers and students from the Wellington and Hutt Valley regions staged a protest vigil outside parliament.’
  • 2(in the Christian Church) the eve of a festival or holy day as an occasion of religious observance.

    • ‘Holy Saturday saw a packed Church for the Easter vigil and the first Mass of Easter was celebrated at 9pm.’
    • ‘The time for the vigil mass in Kilglass Church on Saturday evenings has now been changed from 9pm to 7pm for the winter months.’
    • ‘The Easter Offering for the support of the priests of the parish will be taken up at the Easter vigil and Easter Sunday morning.’
    • ‘The vigil Mass on Christmas was 9 pm and a large congregation was present.’
    • ‘His travels were circular, he and his companions returning each year to celebrate the Easter vigil on the back of an enormous fish, Jasconius.’
    • ‘Take her to an Easter vigil or to an Eastern Orthodox Easter midnight service: dramatic-and she gets to stay up late.’
    • ‘The Christmas pageant involving the children from Culleens and Kilglass N.S. will take place during the Gospel at the Christmas night vigil Mass in Kilglass Church.’
    • ‘On Holy Saturday they visit Jasconius the whale to keep the Easter vigil, and sing the first mass of Easter on his back.’
    • ‘Neither the Christmas vigil nor the Christmas day service provoked any great amount of tension in either party.’
    • ‘The Senior Traditional Group will perform at the vigil Mass on the third Saturday of every month.’
    • ‘It is at pains to point out that much of the ceremony took place during the Christmas vigil and on the feast of the Nativity.’
    • ‘The vigil Mass in Kilglass Church on next Saturday evening at 9 p.m. will be a special Mass for those who are doing exams.’
    • ‘The vigil Mass for Christmas will take place in Rathdowney Church on Christmas Eve at 9pm.’
    burial, burying, interment, entombment, committal, inhumation, laying to rest, consignment to the grave
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    1. 2.1vigils Nocturnal devotions.
      • ‘Cowled figures slip quietly from the monastic enclosure into the abbey church for vigils and lauds, an almost two-hour service that establishes the quiet and contemplative atmosphere of the abbey and the order.’


Middle English (in vigil (sense 2)): via Old French from Latin vigilia, from vigil ‘awake’.