[ 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.

Nearby words

  1. vigil mass,
  2. vigilambulism,
  3. vigilance,
  4. vigilance committee,
  5. vigilant,
  6. vigilantes,
  7. vigilantism,
  8. vigilantly,
  9. vigilius,
  10. vigintillion

Origin of vigilante

1825–35, Americanism; < Spanish: vigilant

Related formsvig·i·lan·te·ism, vig·i·lan·tism [vij-uh-lan-tiz-uh m, vij-uh-luh n-tiz-uh m] /ˌvɪdʒ əˈlæn tɪz əm, ˈvɪdʒ ə lənˌtɪz əm/, noun

Can be confusedvigilant vigilante Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for vigilante

British Dictionary definitions for vigilante


/ (ˌvɪdʒɪˈlæntɪ) /


one of an organized group of citizens who take upon themselves the protection of their district, properties, etc
Also called: vigilance man US a member of a vigilance committee

Word Origin for vigilante

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

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