AskDefine | Define vigil

Dictionary Definition



1 a period of sleeplessness
2 a devotional watch (especially on the eve of a religious festival) [syn: watch]
3 a purposeful surveillance to guard or observe [syn: watch]

User Contributed Dictionary



vigile, from etyl fro vigile, from vigilia, from vigil, from .



  1. a watch kept during normal sleeping hours, especially over the body of a recently deceased or dying person
  2. a period of observation or surveillance
  3. the eve of some religious festival in which staying awake is part of the ritual devotions


a period of observation or surveillance
the eve of some religious festival






vigil (plural: vigiles)
  1. watchman, sentinel
  2. (plural) the watch, police


Extensive Definition

A vigil (from the Latin vigilia, meaning wakefulness) is a period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching, or an observance.
It can also be the eve of a religious festival observed by staying awake as a devotional exercise or ritual devotions observed on the eve of a holy day , such as the Easter Vigil held on Holy Saturday. In the Eastern Orthodox Church an All-Night Vigil is held on the eves of Sundays and all major feasts during the liturgical year.
In Christianity, especially the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, a vigil is often held when someone is gravely ill or dying. Prayers are said and votives are often made. Vigils extend from eventual death to burial, ritualistically to pray for a loved one, but more practically so they are never alone.
In the Middle Ages, a squire on the night before his knighting ceremony was expected to take a cleansing bath, fast, make confession, and then hold an all-night vigil of prayer to God in the chapel, readying himself for his life as a knight. He would dress in white, which was the symbol for purity.
When a Jew dies, a watch is kept over the body and Tehillim are recited constantly, until the burial service.


vigil in Czech: Vigilie
vigil in French: Veillée

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Mass, alertness, all-night vigil, bedtime prayer, camp meeting, church, church service, compline, consciousness, custodianship, custody, devotions, divine service, duty, eagle eye, evening devotions, evensong, exercises, guard, guardedness, guardianship, insomnia, insomniac, insomnolence, insomnolency, invigilation, lauds, lidless vigil, liturgy, lookout, matins, meeting, monitoring, morning devotions, night song, none, nones, novena, observance, office, peeled eye, praise meeting, prayer, prayer meeting, prayers, prime, prime song, proctoring, prudence, public worship, qui vive, restlessness, revival, revival meeting, sentience, service, sext, sharp eye, sleeplessness, stewardship, surveillance, tent meeting, tierce, tossing and turning, undersong, vesper, vespers, vigilance, vigils, wake, wakefulness, wariness, watch, watch and ward, watch meeting, watch night, watch-night service, watchful eye, watchfulness, watching, weather eye
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