veg·​e·​tar·​i·​an | \ˌve-jə-ˈter-ē-ən \

Definition of vegetarian 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who does not eat meat : someone whose diet consists wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products

2 : herbivore



Definition of vegetarian (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or suitable for vegetarians a vegetarian restaurant

2 : not containing meat : consisting wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products a vegetarian diet vegetarian lunch

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The Difference Between Vegetarian, Vegan, and Other Diets

The word vegetarian sprouted up in 1839. Fruitarian ("a person who lives on fruit") ripened by 1893. In 1944, vegetarians who consume no animal or dairy products began calling themselves vegans. Then, in 1993, those who eat fish but no other meat chose pesce, the Italian word for "fish," to create the designation pescatarian. In that same year, meatatarian was served up as a word for those whose diet largely includes meat; that word is rare, however, and is usually used in informal and humorous ways, making it the type of fare not included in our dictionaries. Another fairly recent dietary word is flexitarian, a person who follows a mostly vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish.

Examples of vegetarian in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

What follows here is Huegel riffing on plant romance, manipulative orchids, promiscuous asters, Florida’s lazy bees and what vegetarians are missing. Kevin Spear,, "Garden sex is passionate, smart, Florida ecologist says," 26 Apr. 2018 The trips will obviously appeal to global travelers who opt out of traditional food tours but also offer meat eaters and vegetarians a way to try out veganism, with the bonus of exotic settings. Diane Daniel,, "Intrepid Travel launches vegan tours," 26 June 2018 The Denton menu is relatively small, with a handful of empanada (both savory and sweet) and taco choices (for carnivores and vegetarians), a couple of sandwiches, yuca fries, daily specials and more, as well as aguas frescas, beer and wine drinks. Robert Philpot, star-telegram, "A Denton fave is bringing its Latin American street food to Keller | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 21 May 2018 Iron is found in meat, fish, and other animal products, plus beans and legumes, so vegans and vegetarians might be more likely to be low in iron. Jane Chertoff, SELF, "This Is Why Your Eyebrows Are Thinner Than They Used to Be—and What to Do About It," 13 July 2018 Frederickson is a vegan and Kenneally was an ethical vegetarian, which also helped them connect. Leor Galil, Chicago Reader, "Music / RIP Remembering soundman and musician Patrick Kenneally, who nurtured scenes in Chicago and Portland," 18 June 2018 French cuisine traditionally relies heavily on meat and dairy, and vegetarians and vegans make up a tiny minority of the population. Time, "French Butchers Want Protection From 'Militant' Vegans," 27 June 2018 Of course, the options for vegetarians and vegans have vastly improved over the years, particularly in cities. Anna Orso,, "This is what happens when a popular West Philly taco joint goes full vegan," 27 June 2018 There’s a fresh take on potato skins with brown butter-caper yogurt and smoked paprika aioli, and even a ratatouille (fortunately prepared by humans, not rats) for vegetarians, as well as a lengthy list of craft cocktail (and mocktails). Pam Kragen,, "Pixar Pier debuts Saturday at Disney California park," 22 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Elsewhere, the kangaroo in question was nine metres tall (New Zealand, 1831) or eschewed its usual vegetarian diet to kill and eat at least one German shepherd before disappearing (Tennessee, 1934). Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Here Be Tigers," 28 June 2018 Research showed the risk of towels contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli was higher on humid towels, multi-purpose towels, and in families with non-vegetarian diets. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, "Your kitchen towels could give you food poisoning, study suggests," 11 June 2018 The Faithists kept a strict vegetarian diet, planted orchards and adopted orphans to raise as the vanguard of their new society. Sam Kestenbaum, New York Times, "A Forgotten Religion Gets a Second Chance in Brooklyn," 7 June 2018 Among his admonishments: rise early, bathe before sunrise, pray twice daily, shun drugs and alcohol and maintain a strict vegetarian diet. Shashank Bengali,, "This nature-loving sect in India dragged one of the world's biggest movie stars to court — and won," 17 May 2018 The sweat from those on the vegetarian diet was judged by a group of women to be significantly less pungent. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "5 Ways Your Diet Can Cause Bad Body Odor," 9 May 2018 But a new study finds that vegetarian diets may be just as good at keeping your heart healthy, according to a study published in the journal Circulation. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "Which is Healthier: Being a Vegetarian or Eating a Mediterranean Diet?," 26 Feb. 2018 Elsewhere, the kangaroo in question was nine metres tall (New Zealand, 1831) or eschewed its usual vegetarian diet to kill and eat at least one German shepherd before disappearing (Tennessee, 1934). Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, "The Obsessive Search for the Tasmanian Tiger," 16 Jan. 2012 Rotating entrees could include al pastor tacos or prime rib hash, and there’s always a vegetarian or vegan option like zucchini meatballs or quinoa fritters. Samantha Nelson, RedEye Chicago, "11 Chicago restaurants offering great brunch buffets," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vegetarian.' 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 vegetarian


1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1843, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for vegetarian


veget(able) entry 1 + -arian

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Last Updated

29 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for vegetarian

The first known use of vegetarian was in 1842

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More Definitions for vegetarian


veg·​e·​tar·​i·​an | \ˌve-jə-ˈter-ē-ən \

Kids Definition of vegetarian

: a person who does not eat meat


veg·​e·​tar·​i·​an | \ˌvej-ə-ˈter-ē-ən \

Medical Definition of vegetarian 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: an individual who believes in or practices vegetarianism



Medical Definition of vegetarian (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of or relating to vegetarians

2 : consisting wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products a vegetarian diet

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a private place of worship

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