vanilla

noun
va·​nil·​la | \ və-ˈni-lə How to pronounce vanilla (audio) , -ˈne- How to pronounce vanilla (audio) \

Definition of vanilla

 (Entry 1 of 2)

b : a commercially important extract of the vanilla bean that is used especially as a flavoring
2 : any of a genus (Vanilla) of tropical American climbing epiphytic orchids

vanilla

adjective

Definition of vanilla (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : flavored with vanilla
2 : lacking distinction : plain, ordinary, conventional

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Adjective

For lexicographers, vanilla has more flavor than chocolate, because it adds a tasty synonym for plain to the English menu. The noun vanilla was first served up in 1662, but it took almost 200 years for its adjective use to become established for things, like ice and sugar, flavored with vanilla. By the 1970s vanilla was perceived as being the plain flavor of the ice-cream world, and people began using the word itself to describe anything plain, ordinary, or conventional.

Examples of vanilla in a Sentence

Noun

The frosting is flavored with vanilla.

Adjective

The décor is pretty vanilla. a plain vanilla version of a song that's been recorded more times than necessary
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar and pure vanilla extract until smooth. Taylor Murray, Country Living, "Tulip Cupcakes," 12 Feb. 2019 Stir in brandy or rum, vanilla extract, ground nutmeg, and remaining cold milk. Heather Finn, Good Housekeeping, "How to Make Old-Fashioned Eggnog Your Grandma Would Be Proud Of," 18 Dec. 2018 Reduce mixer speed to medium and add egg whites 1 at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated, then beat in vanilla extract. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "Double White Chocolate Cake," 29 Nov. 2018 Add four cups water and one cup oats (and any other ingredients you like, like dates or vanilla extract) to a blender. Audrey Bruno, SELF, "Here's How to Make Oat Milk," 27 Aug. 2018 Place dates, egg, vanilla extract, coconut oil, apple puree, cauliflower and maple syrup into a high-speed food processor and process until smooth. Health.com, "These Vanilla Cupcakes Are Made With Cauliflower—and You’d Never Know It," 10 July 2018 Ingredients: 2 pints strawberries 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature 1 cup whipped cream ½ cup powdered sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ½ cup blueberries Preparation: Wash and dry fruit. Jennifer Mcclellan, ajc, "6 colorful Fourth of July recipes to make your party sparkle," 4 July 2018 Ingredients: 2 pints strawberries 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature 1 cup whipped cream ½ cup powdered sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ½ cup blueberries Preparation: Wash and dry fruit. Jennifer Mcclellan, USA TODAY, "6 colorful July 4th recipes to make your party sparkle," 3 July 2018 Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then add the vanilla extract. Becky Krystal, Houston Chronicle, "This classic coffee cake is what good mornings are made of," 18 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vanilla.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of vanilla

Noun

1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adjective

1846, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vanilla

Noun

borrowed from New Latin, borrowed from Spanish vainilla "the vanilla plant and fruit," diminutive of vaina "sheath, pod," going back to Latin vāgīna "scabbard, sheath"; replacing earlier vaynilla, borrowed from Spanish

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about vanilla

Listen to Our Podcast about vanilla

Statistics for vanilla

Last Updated

25 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for vanilla

The first known use of vanilla was in 1662

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for vanilla

vanilla

noun

English Language Learners Definition of vanilla

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a dark substance that is made from the beans of a tropical plant and that is used to flavor food

vanilla

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of vanilla (Entry 2 of 2)

: having the flavor of vanilla
chiefly US, informal : not having any special features or qualities

vanilla

noun
va·​nil·​la | \ və-ˈni-lə How to pronounce vanilla (audio) , -ˈne-\

Kids Definition of vanilla

: a substance extracted from vanilla beans and used as a flavoring especially for sweet foods and beverages

vanilla

noun
va·​nil·​la | \ və-ˈnil-ə How to pronounce vanilla (audio) , -ˈnel- How to pronounce vanilla (audio) \

Medical Definition of vanilla

b : a commercially important extract of the vanilla bean that is prepared by soaking comminuted vanilla beans in water and ethyl alcohol and that is used especially as a flavoring (as in pharmaceutical preparations)
2 : any of a genus (Vanilla) of tropical American climbing orchids

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on vanilla

What made you want to look up vanilla? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a shady place in a garden or forest

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!