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

View larger map Duck Donuts serves vanilla cake doughnuts bare or with a coating (cinnamon sugar, powered sugar, glazed or icing). Joyce Smith, kansascity, "New to Leawood: Donut shop where you can top doughnuts with bacon, ice cream, more," 29 June 2018 But it was pared back after companies voiced fears that this could interfere with their everyday operations, by leaving even the most vanilla transactions exposed to a cumbersome review process. The Economist, "The Trump administration plans to crack down on Chinese investment," 28 June 2018 Enzo scoops out three types: a hazelnut, a cannoli and a classic vanilla-chocolate combination. Lauren Delgado, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Enzo's Hideaway offers Italian fare paired with prohibition-style cocktails," 14 July 2018 Some proceeds from this mango-pineapple-vanilla milkshake IPA’s sales benefit the Sacramento Zoo’s work with black-and-white ruffled lemurs. Benjy Egel, sacbee, "These 15 Sacramento-area beers have the cleverest names of any released in 2018," 12 July 2018 The world is not wanting for venti vanilla iced lattes. Nestor Ramos, BostonGlobe.com, "Weep not for Starbucks. But in the North End, what comes next?," 12 July 2018 Its arrival to Brush Park in mid-May was greeted with media buzz, but Empire's vanilla vision offers a dreary look into Detroit's potential culinary soul. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "Restaurant Review: Detroit's Empire Kitchen & Cocktails has no clothes," 12 July 2018 The 105-proof whiskey Cognac Finish, which has notes of spice, honey, almond and vanilla, is the company’s latest release, costing $70 per bottle. Brittany Britto, baltimoresun.com, "Sagamore Spirit to donate all proceeds of limited edition whiskey to Ellicott City flood relief, rebuilding efforts," 10 July 2018 The vanilla cupcakes with chocolate-date frosting are among more than 140 kid-friendly recipes in Sacher's new cookbook, The Wholesome Child ($25; amazon.com). Health.com, "These Vanilla Cupcakes Are Made With Cauliflower—and You’d Never Know It," 10 July 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

4 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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