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

There's also the new Oreo Firework Blizzard, a mixture of vanilla soft-serve, Oreo cookie pieces and red and blue popping candies that are sure to be an explosion akin to fireworks. Garrett Mitchell, azcentral, "Dairy Queen debuts two Fourth of July-themed Blizzard treats," 3 July 2018 Arenas recommends a homemade creamer made with unsweetened coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut sugar, and a touch of vanilla and cinnamon. Ryan Smith, Bon Appetit, "I Love Soy Milk, and No, I Don't Want to Try That Other Milk Instead," 26 June 2018 And, since a lot of people have an even more passionate affair with Frisch's Coke with a shot of vanilla or cherry, the exact recipe is paramount, including the soft but crunchy ice, which no one has yet been heretical enough to change. Polly Campbell, Cincinnati.com, "Polly Campbell: Coke back at Frisch's. Here's what it means," 18 June 2018 Nutty Sherry notes are unmistakable, with hints of vanilla and lemon. Matthew Kronsberg, WSJ, "Warm-Weather Whisky: 5 Easy-Drinking Options," 6 June 2018 According to records, Vernor had been experimenting with a stomach calming tonic of vanilla, spices and ginger in 1862. Caroline Blackmon, Detroit Free Press, "Nearly 100-year-old bottle of Vernor's found in Detroit home," 5 June 2018 The wines include an unusually light and creamy chenin blanc, a slightly effervescent vinho verde-style blanc du bois and verdelho blend and a classically Old World-style tempranillo with just a hint of vanilla. Emily Spicer, San Antonio Express-News, "The top 10 Hill Country Wineries," 4 June 2018 This version is wrapped in a chocolate shell, revealing thick yellow cake and an airy layer of custard with a hint of vanilla, topped with a cloud of mascarpone and a mint sprig. Kara Baskin, BostonGlobe.com, "Has Boston cream pie been manipulated beyond recognition? It’s a question with many layers.," 21 May 2018 This is the oldest barrel-aged rum in the world, with powerful, smooth flavors of vanilla. Kate Krader, chicagotribune.com, "These Caribbean rum distilleries are worth a vacation in themselves," 14 May 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

9 Sep 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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Comments on vanilla

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