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



Definition of vanilla (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Did you know?

How did vanilla get such a bad rap? The flavor with that name certainly has enough fans, with the bean of the Vanilla genus of orchids finding its way into products ranging from ice cream to coffee to perfumes to air fresheners. Vanilla's unfortunate reputation arose due to its being regarded as the "basic" flavor among ice-cream selections, particularly as more complex flavors emerged on the market. (Its somewhat beigey color probably didn't help.) From there, people began using the adjective 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
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Other unique soda flavors include cherry, cola, chocolate and vanilla. The Indianapolis Star, 3 Aug. 2022 Premier Protein shakes in chocolate, vanilla and café latte flavors (330 ml. Sabrina Weiss,, 1 Aug. 2022 Helmed by the Rukab family, who have a long history of selling booza in Ramallah, the shop offers traditional flavors like chocolate, vanilla and cookies 'n' cream in cups and cones. Megha Mcswain, Chron, 29 July 2022 Its core ingredients — chocolate, vanilla and a taco shell (albeit one made of waffle cone) — are Mexican in origin. Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2022 Cream butter with vanilla in medium bowl and then cream with powdered sugar. Carol Deptolla, Journal Sentinel, 27 July 2022 Some brands add chocolate, vanilla or other flavors to their mushroom coffees to sweeten the taste. Good Housekeeping, 21 July 2022 Aglamesis will offer free scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream for all attendees from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the Oakley location. Haadiza Ogwude, The Enquirer, 14 July 2022 This week’s features flavors include chocolate, chocolate walnut, chocolate peanut butter, cookies & cream, salted caramel, English toffee, mint chocolate and vanilla. Kaitlyn Keegan, Hartford Courant, 16 June 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of vanilla


1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1846, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vanilla


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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Time Traveler for vanilla

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The first known use of vanilla was in 1662

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Dictionary Entries Near vanilla



vanilla bean

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Statistics for vanilla

Last Updated

8 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Vanilla.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for vanilla


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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on vanilla

Nglish: Translation of vanilla for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vanilla for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about vanilla


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