[ vij-uh-luhns ]
/ ˈvɪdʒ ə ləns /
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Definition of vigilance

state or quality of being vigilant; watchfulness: Vigilance is required in the event of treachery.
Pathology. insomnia.
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Origin of vigilance

First recorded in 1560–70; alteration (-ance for -ancy) of obsolete vigilancy, from Latin vigilantia; see vigilant, -ancy


hy·per·vig·i·lance, nounnon·vig·i·lance, nounpre·vig·i·lance, nounsu·per·vig·i·lance, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does vigilance mean?

Vigilance is the state of being watchful or alert for danger or some other kind of trouble.

Vigilance is the noun form of the adjective vigilant, meaning watchful or alert.

Vigilance is often used when talking about keeping something out or in—whether that means keeping mistakes out of your work, robbers out of your home, or the dog inside the house.

In a medical context, vigilance is sometimes used as a synonym for insomnia—the state of being unable to sleep.

Example: We must be vigilant if we want to protect our home from invaders.

Where does vigilance come from?

The first records of the word vigilance come from around 1570. It comes from an earlier and now obsolete version of the word spelled vigilancy. It derives from the Latin vigilāns, which means “keeping awake” and comes from the Latin verb vigilāre, meaning “to be watchful.” It is related to other words that imply watchfulness (and sometimes potential danger), such as vigil and vigilante. In fact, the Latin word vigil means “sentry,” a person who stands guard, such as to look out for dangers such as invaders, escapees, or fire.

Vigilance, then, is the state of acting like a guard who watches to make sure that bad things don’t happen. Of course, those bad things can take many forms, depending on the context in which vigilance is used. Someone might tell you to maintain vigilance while walking home in the dark. Vigilance often involves watching out for unknown dangers. Parents often maintain vigilance in monitoring their children’s internet use. Election officials maintain vigilance over the voting process. In all cases, vigilance involves being watchful and alert without letting your guard down. It doesn’t always have to involve the potential for danger or trouble, but it usually does.

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What are some other forms of vigilance?

What are some synonyms for vigilance?

What are some words that share a root or word element with vigilance

What are some words that often get used in discussing vigilance?

How is vigilance used in real life?

Vigilance is often used in serious contexts, such as safety, politics, and national security.



Try using vigilance!

Is vigilance used correctly in the following sentence?

His vigilance allowed the dog to slip out the door while he wasn’t looking.

How to use vigilance in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for vigilance

/ (ˈvɪdʒɪləns) /

the fact, quality, or condition of being vigilant
the abnormal state or condition of being unable to sleep
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