Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-vi-jê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To watch over, watch carefully, be vigilant, especially to oversee an examination; to monitor, to proctor.

Notes: For such a rare word, invigilate has a rather large family. The action noun is invigilation, and the personal noun is invigilator. There is an adjective, invigilant, even rarer than these, which seemingly has two contrary meanings, "not vigilant" and "vigilant, alert". Actually, Latin had two homophonic and homographic prefixes in-, one meaning "in, on"; the other, "not, un-".

In Play: The more general sense of this word may be deployed thus: "Catherine believed deeply in some invisible power that invigilates all things." The personal noun, invigilator, I am assured by today's Good Word contributor, is still alive and well on the Isle of Wight: "In his retirement, Harry became an invigilator of exams in the local school system."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin invigilatus "watched over", the past participle of the verb invigilare "to watch over", comprising in- "in(to), on" + vigilare "to watch ". Vigilare is based on vigil "watchful", which English borrowed in the sense of "a watching over". Vigil was borrowed from Latin vigil "watchful, alert", which came from PIE weg-/wog- "be lively, strong". The o-variant of this word produced watch and wake (up) when it came down through English's Germanic ancestors. The e-variant was also converted to witch and wicca. Latin made another word out of this PIE ancestor, vegetare "to enliven", based on vegere "to be lively". Vegetabilis, whence English vegetable, meant "enlivening". Now do you see why your mother told you to eat your vegetables? (Today's fascinating Good Word was a gift of newcomer Brian Harris, who lives on the sunny Isle of Wight, England.)

Dr. Goodword,

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