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

For the meringue beat the white of the eggs to a stuff froth, add two tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar, flavor slightly with vanilla and spread over the top of the pie. Marley Marius, Vogue, "7 Alternative Thanksgiving Desserts from the Vogue Archive," 16 Nov. 2018 Add egg and vanilla and mix until dough begins to come together. Anna Helm Baxter, Country Living, "Cranberry Crumb Bars," 30 Oct. 2018 This syrah is a gorgeous example, with ripe plum, blackberry jam, dark chocolate, vanilla and spices. Andy Perdue, The Seattle Times, "DeLille Cellars’ 2015 Harrison Hill is Andy Perdue’s Wine of the Year," 26 Oct. 2018 Once cream is incorporated, whisk in vanilla and nutmeg. Redbook Test Kitchen, Redbook, "Berry Custard Crunch," 20 Aug. 2018 Add the vanilla and lemon zest and beat 1 more minute; set aside. Susan Selasky, charlotteobserver, "Celebrate the Fourth with minimal fuss, maximum flavor," 3 July 2018 The wild child is flavored with rose syrup, vanilla and a cardamom tincture for a floral, not-too-sweet drink. Lauren Delgado, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Sneak peek: Craft & Common coffee, retail shop in downtown Orlando," 26 June 2018 The only flavors are vanilla and nutmeg. Bake this for a rehearsal dinner and serve with bowls of berries and whipped cream. Lisa Yockelson, BostonGlobe.com, "Recipe: Bake this luxurious Bundt cake for a rehearsal dinner and add berries and cream," 4 June 2018 Lee's offers three flavors a day, which are chocolate, vanilla and one that alternates every four to five days. Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Cool down with custard...or soft serve? Here are two places in the Milwaukee suburbs that do it right.," 30 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

2 Dec 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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