Definition of vigilante in English:



  • A member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.

    • ‘These vigilantes are an assault on the values of Australia.’
    • ‘Then they would not be terrorists, but vigilantes.’
    • ‘Still, it was only a matter of time until someone defied the vigilantes and challenged their powers of enforcement.’
    • ‘The vigilante is either a lone-wolf cop or an aggrieved private citizen.’
    • ‘Many were arrested by police and others were injured by unidentified vigilantes.’
    • ‘The men claimed to be members of a vigilante organisation but contradicted each other as to which one.’
    • ‘Asked if there was a danger that standing up and being counted could lead to vigilantism, he said that he would not advocate the use of vigilantes.’
    • ‘In other districts, vigilantes set up roadblocks and patrolled neighbourhoods to deter thieves and looters.’
    • ‘Set in a world that saw actual costumed vigilantes appear in real life as opposed to the funny books we are treated to a view of the superhero as outcast.’
    • ‘A community of spam vigilantes constantly is improving free programs such as SpamAssassin.’
    • ‘A human life has been extinguished by private guards acting as vigilantes in the defense of a multimillion-dollar company.’
    • ‘Health authorities or even vigilantes ought to have shut it down years ago.’
    • ‘You want to take sides with the vigilantes and call them heroes.’
    • ‘The communities around these people are not irrational vigilantes but more likely incoherent with grief.’
    • ‘Although the details of her release are being kept a secret, her family's addresses are well-known to the media and any potential vigilantes.’
    • ‘Just a few months ago the run-up to such an occasion would have had the wires of Wall Street's vigilantes humming.’
    • ‘It becomes clear these men are self-styled vigilantes who are attempting to intimidate the looters and take back the goods they have stolen.’
    • ‘He could have asked for something specific such as proper prosecution of the guilty and a roundup of vigilantes.’
    • ‘I will also be talking with two outspoken critics of the Minuteman Project who say the minutemen are simply vigilantes.’
    • ‘The thugs, vigilantes and enforcers have to end their activities - and be seen to do so.’


Mid 19th century: from Spanish, literally vigilant.