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[vij-uh-lan-tee] /ˌvɪdʒ əˈlæn ti/
a member of a vigilance committee.
any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.
done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures:
vigilante justice.
Origin of vigilante
1825-35, Americanism; < Spanish: vigilant
Related forms
vigilanteism, vigilantism
[vij-uh-lan-tiz-uh m, vij-uh-luh n-tiz-uh m] /ˌvɪdʒ əˈlæn tɪz əm, ˈvɪdʒ ə lənˌtɪz əm/ (Show IPA),
Can be confused
vigilant, vigilante. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for vigilante
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • All those who had joined the vigilante movement were marked men.

    The Story of the Outlaw Emerson Hough
  • There's nothing I'm so sick of hearing as this vigilante stuff.

    Laramie Holds the Range

    Frank H. Spearman
  • "It's the vigilante," he said, returning to the veranda where we were sitting.

    The Fortunate Isles

    Mary Stuart Boyd
  • "But I gave the vigilante his penny this morning," I said, hastening to the door.

    The Fortunate Isles

    Mary Stuart Boyd
  • You don't mean to say she loves that vigilante—that mining fellow?

    Miss Dividends Archibald Clavering Gunter
British Dictionary definitions for vigilante


one of an organized group of citizens who take upon themselves the protection of their district, properties, etc
(US) Also called vigilance man. a member of a vigilance committee
Word Origin
C19: from Spanish, from Latin vigilāre to keep watch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for vigilante

"member of a vigilance committee," 1856, American English, from Spanish vigilante, literally "watchman," from Latin vigilantem (see vigilance). Vigilant man in same sense is attested from 1824 in a Missouri context. Vigilance committees kept informal rough order on the frontier or in other places where official authority was imperfect.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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