A vigil is when you stay alert to guard something, as when you keep vigil over your hen house when the foxes are out. A vigil can also be solemn, as when a candlelight vigil is held for victims of a tragedy.

Vigil comes from the Latin word for "awake," and all its meanings include the idea of watchfulness. If you're attending a vigil or keeping vigil, you shouldn't expect to take a nap. The vigil is an apt kind of demonstration for peace movements, as it's calm, non-violent, and solemn, with participants standing quietly — sometimes holding candles.

Definitions of vigil
  1. noun
    a purposeful surveillance to guard or observe
    synonyms: watch
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    continuous receiver watch, listening watch
    a watch established for the reception of traffic of interest to the unit maintaining the watch
    keeping a secret or furtive watch
    type of:
    close observation of a person or group (usually by the police)
  2. noun
    a peaceful, stationary demonstration or protest, especially at night
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    type of:
    demonstration, manifestation
    a public display of group feelings (usually of a political nature)
  3. noun
    the rite of staying awake for devotional purposes (especially on the eve of a religious festival)
    synonyms: watch
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    viewing, wake
    a vigil held over a corpse the night before burial
    a vigil before certain feasts (as e.g. Easter)
    type of:
    religious rite, rite
    an established ceremony prescribed by a religion
  4. noun
    a period of sleeplessness
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    type of:
    a periodic state during which you are conscious and aware of the world
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