vanilla

noun
va·​nil·​la | \və-ˈni-lə, -ˈne- \

Definition of vanilla 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : vanilla bean

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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well to blend, then add vanilla and mix well. Leora Y. Bloom, The Seattle Times, "The generous, prolific Sisterhood of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church puts a lot into its cooking," 21 Aug. 2018 Where Mary Higgins Clark’s four-acre home in Saddle River, N.J. Sophie Cake The brides made a Rice Krispies treat to resemble Sophie, their Maltese mix, sitting on vanilla cake with chocolate butter cream and crushed Oreos. Alix Strauss, New York Times, "Worthy of a Romance Novel, With a Touch of Mystery," 29 June 2018 Berry Buckle Ingredients 2 1/2 cups berries 1 tablespoon sugar Muffin or vanilla cake mix My grandmother always insisted that leftover fruit cobbler was a breakfast food. Ac Shilton, Outside Online, "5 Legit Breakfast Recipes for Camp," 21 June 2018 Dag Nutty A vanilla cake doughnut with chocolate glaze and nuts. Steffi Victorioso, Los Angeles Magazine, "Every Signature Doughnut at Donut Friend, Ranked," 1 June 2018 Jacob didn’t eat much of the cake after that, but his mother says the chocolate and vanilla cake was delicious. Washington Post, BostonGlobe.com, "Grocery store censors cake with request for ‘summa cum laude’," 22 May 2018 With mixer on medium-high speed, add vanilla and ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Terri Milligan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Thanks, Mom: Readers share food legacy their mothers left them," 8 May 2018 Thankfully, the kind folks at Clementine were game and donated one vanilla cake with pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles. Mariah Smith, The Cut, "My Very Sponsored Birthday Party: Part I," 7 May 2018 This miniature, sugar-free vanilla cake has yogurt-topped icing and is available year-round at the bakeries for $2.50. Sonja Haller, azcentral, "National Puppy Day 2018: Pet deals you need in your life for your little fluff of cuteness," 22 Mar. 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.

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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

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Statistics for vanilla

Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for vanilla

The first known use of vanilla was in 1662

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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

: not having any special features or qualities

vanilla

noun
va·​nil·​la | \və-ˈni-lə, -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, -ˈnel- \

Medical Definition of vanilla 

1a : vanilla bean

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

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