from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One who practices vegetarianism.
  • adjective Of or relating to vegetarianism or vegetarians.
  • adjective Consisting primarily or wholly of vegetables or plants.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of those who on principle abstain from animal food.
  • Consisting entirely of vegetables.
  • noun One who maintains that vegetables and farinaceous substances constitute the only proper food for man.
  • noun One who abstains from animal food, and lives exclusively on vegetables, together with, usually, eggs, milk, etc. Strict vegetarians eat vegetable and farinaceous food only, and will not eat butter, eggs, or even milk.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun One who holds that vegetables and fruits are the only proper food for man. Strict vegetarians eat no meat, eggs, or milk, and are sometimes referred tro as vegans.
  • adjective Of or pertaining to vegetarianism.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A person who does not eat animal flesh, or, in some cases, animal products.
  • noun An animal that eats only plants; a herbivore.
  • adjective Of or relating to the type of diet eaten by vegetarians (in all senses).
  • adjective Of a product normally made with meat, having non-meat substitutes in place of meat.
  • adjective of a person That does not eat meat.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun eater of fruits and grains and nuts; someone who eats no meat or fish or (often) any animal products


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[veget(able) + –arian.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

vegetable +‎ -arian; popularized following 1847 foundation of British Vegetarian Society. (Alternatively, it may derive from vegetus +‎ -arian.)


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  • Firstly, “vegetarians” who eat fish are pescetarians.

    The Britsh Food Standards Agency attempt to clarify the terms vegetarian and vegan:

    The term ‘vegetarian’ should not be applied to foods that are, or are made from or with the aid of products derived from animals that have died, have been slaughtered, or animals that die as a result of being eaten. Animals means farmed, wild or domestic animals, including for example, livestock poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustacea, amphibians, tunicates, echinoderms, molluscs and insects.

    The term ‘vegan’ should not be applied to foods that are, or are made from or with the aid of animals or animal products (including products from living animals).

    Eggs, dairy products and honey are thus vegetarian, but not vegan. Gelatine and ordinary rennet, being by-products of animal slaughter, are neither.

    Veg*n (where * stands for both -etaria- and -a-) has spread as an easier way of notating vegetarian/vegan.

    April 19, 2008

  • Vegetarians don't eat fish; vegetarians eat vegetables. Neither fish, eggs, dairy, poultry nor molluscs are made from vegetables.

    April 19, 2008

  • I think you're being unnecessarily pedantic, bilby.

    April 19, 2008

  • 1. a. One who lives wholly or principally upon vegetable foods, says the OED. (emphasis mine)

    Vegetarianism in practice uses a definition of exclusion (no animals) not inclusion (only vegetable products). Eggs qua eggs aren't animals. Honey isn't an animal. Fish are animals. Poultry are. Argue with the Vegetarian Society if you like.

    April 19, 2008

  • I'm a bit tired of people who aren't vegetarians telling us what we are.

    April 19, 2008

  • So why not put the emphasis on wholesome wholly rather than prissy principally? Who says eggs aren't animals? Go argue with the mother hen from whom you have stolen offspring, not me. I'm not a co-opted member of Veg-Soc; I don't rely on self-appointed arbiters to tell me what's what.

    April 19, 2008

  • Ah, and the Vegetarian Society aren't vegetarians? You may have missed my edit.

    April 19, 2008

  • I'm a vegetarian; I eat vegetables (or as WeirdNET kindly explains, fruit, grains and nuts). Anybody got a problem with that?

    April 19, 2008

  • Interestingly, it's their term you're using. Origin 1847, Vegetarian Society, Ramsgate. The OED definition continues thus: a person who on principle abstains from any form of animal food, or at least such as is obtained by the direct destruction of life.

    I don't know about the origin of vegan, on the other hand.

    You can use whatever term you want, but it won't give you a right to be pissed off when someone offers you strictly labelled (see first post, or here; you do live in the UK, or do I remember wrongly?) vegetarian cheese made with vegetarian rennet. Unless you've already told them you hate cheese, of course.

    April 19, 2008

  • I don't have a problem with that at all, bilby. You may decide that being a vegetarian means no animal products at all, and that's all good. But people who do not eat meat but still indulge in dairy should still be allowed to call themselves vegetarian.

    April 19, 2008

  • Cheese is also not made from vegetables. The term vegan came about because of the corruption of the term vegetarian and, predictably, I'm less than impressed. I'm re-storming the citadel. Please read your own link sarra: "There is no definition in law of the terms vegetarian or vegan either at UK or European level." Therefore I as a person who considers myself vegetarian am entitled to define vegetarian as I wish because it does have no offical, legal, sterilised, dairy-farm-subsidised, defenceless-chicken-euthanised definition. I can no longer help you. Eat vegetables or eat death. Gordon Ramsay has agreed to console me for the next twenty minutes and say fuck very frequently and loudly. And gratuitously.

    April 19, 2008

  • Hey you all, stop it! You can't be angry on a sunny Saturday!

    (...OK, it's a sunny Saturday here)

    April 19, 2008

  • It's quarter past two on Sunday morning here, pro :)

    Imagine if there was a law about vegetarianism. What would it achieve?

    April 19, 2008

  • Save a cow - eat a vegetarian.

    April 20, 2008

  • Aye, I did, from the start. If the guidelines hadn't emphasised that there is scope for taking up a legal case against misleading “vegetarian” or “vegan” labelling, despite the lack (as yet!) of a legal definition of those terms, I wouldn't have so much to go on.

    I mentioned cheese labelling to show that while you personally are free to hold to your own definition (cf. identity politics), it's not the one subscribed to by a significant number of other vegetarians and those interested in the concept; therefore it leaves scope for even the scrupulously well-informed to make mistakes regarding your particular preferences.

    I'd love to see what happens to these terms in ten or twenty years' time, or longer. My line of argument is such because I believe the definitions I advocate have significant longevity. If when I'm sixty-four vegetarians are widely accepted to be those who only eat vegetable (in the broadest sense of the word) products, I'll gladly eat my (vegetable-product-based) hat.

    April 20, 2008

  • I'm not responsible for the linguistic choices of other vegetarians. Language is fresher than that.

    I respect sarra's arguments because she rarely posts without thoughtful, useful contributions as her staple. I even forgive her scrupulously well-informed mistakes because I'd like to prod that dialect one day.

    And I'll donate her a hat, pending consumption thereof within the next 20 years, because I love her so.


    April 20, 2008

  • Eat vegetables or eat death

    I can understand how a strict interpretation of this might well exclude eggs, but I don't understand why eating dairy products would be considered harmful to animals.

    FWIW my interpretation of the terms vegetarian and vegan are pretty consistent with those offered by sarra.

    April 20, 2008

  • I've always understood vegetarian to mean someone who does not eat meat or animal products that cause the death of the animal. To me "vegan" means a person who doesn't consume any animal products at all, including milk, cheese, gelatin... or, for that matter, FD&C Red No. 5 (I think, or 40?), which is made from cochineal. (We have two vegetarian friends who are not vegan, but are very strict about not consuming anything with a certain type of red dye in it, because that dye is produced using the bodies of insects--therefore causing their death--but they're fine with consuming milk, cheese, and eggs.)

    Not trying to argue with anyone, just chipping in about the definition of the word on this page.

    Finally, to quote Dennis Leary: "Meat tastes like murder... but murder tastes pretty goddamn good, doesn't it?"

    April 20, 2008

  • Hm. I think I could argue that cheese, milk and even cows are, in fact, made from vegetables. After all, cows are indisputably vegetarians (except perhaps in modern factory farms). In some sense, milk is essentially processed grass.

    That said, I'm happy to let others avoid what they want (or, rather, don't want), as long as they don't make me eat cheese.

    April 20, 2008

  • In response to sionnach's question about how animal products that don't kill animals are harmful:

    One of the major reasons people go vegetarian/vegan is because of the treatment of animals by the food processing industry. For example, I don't think eating meat is morally wrong, however I do think the mistreatment of animals bred for consumption is wrong (plus I don't feel right eating meat, but that's just my personal feeling).

    Animals used for milk, eggs, etc. are mistreated in the same way beef cattle, pigs, etc. are mistreated. People go vegan in protest against that.

    April 20, 2008

  • Not trying to be naive about this or anything, but don't dairy cows actually need to be milked regularly? Not putting that milk to use would seem to raise other issues about wasting available resources.

    Which clearly doesn't obviate concerns about the appropriate treatment of dairy animals. There are also arguments about the efficient use of land, which do not tend to favor the raising of animals for meat consumption, as far as I understand them.

    April 20, 2008

  • That's a good point. Though I think they do use drugs and stuff to make them produce more milk, so decreased demand for milk might alleviate some of the mistreatment.

    I dunno, I'm just speculating here. I'm a vegetarian, not a vegan. ;P

    April 20, 2008

  • Big-business corporate farming is bad in all kinds of ways--bad for animals, bad for nutrition, bad for the environment--except for the fact that it's allowed the world's population to grow exponentially. The challenge is to continue to produce enough food to keep the world's population alive without completely destroying the environment and any future capability to continue feeding the world's population. The way animals are raised and treated is a very small part of a ginormously complicated system. That's not an excuse or an apology, or an acceptance of any moral immunity to finding a better way--I am as deeply offended as anyone by the mistreatment of animals, for example--but there's a reason that agribusiness came to exist. I may be a hopeless pessimist to think that if the entire world went vegetarian tomorrow, we'd still have a heapin' pile of bigger problems, but... I guess I'm a hopeless pessimist.

    April 20, 2008

  • I don't think drugs are involved, I think I read somewehere or other that cows just produce more milk when they are being milked regularly. A wild, free, roaming cow who was not being used for milk would only produce as long as the calf needs it.

    The same thing happens with humans. If you breastfeed your child until they're 2 years old (don't, ew), you will keep producing milk for that long.

    And to play the role of dismissive carnivore for a moment, yes, farm animals are often treated cruelly, but not eating eggs for the rest of your life is not going to stop breeders from cutting chickens' beaks off.

    And c_b's point about cochineal prompted a memory for me :)

    My sister has a lot of vegan friends and was right into finding vegan recipes for a while there. One of them was a rather delicious chocolate cake, which she decorated with pink icing. When my mother and I came to visit, she asked the meaning of the cochineal written on the front of the food dye bottle. She was, of course, horrified at the answer.

    Thankfully, it turned out to be artificial. :D

    April 20, 2008

  • Surely it must be time to introduce one of my favorite recent words, lactivist, into the discussion.

    April 20, 2008

  • I woke up today feeling like a howling vegan slugmudgeon. I apologise - particularly to sarra - on my soy-protein-enhanced knees for any comments I have made recently that might be perceived as out of order (in terms of the Wordie spirit). I of course do intend to keep defending my dietary beliefs where necessary but perhaps by more rational and less inflammatory prose.

    No animals were harmed in the typing of this mea culpa.

    April 20, 2008

  • Phew*. :-)

    (* as an expression of relief)

    April 20, 2008

  • Wow, I guess I came back just in time!

    For the record, I will be celebrating 5 years as a strict vegan this June, so I'm qualified to respond to this madness. I am horrified, saddened, shocked and disheartened by the misinformation and total BS some of you seem to be guilty of using to support your views on veganism.

    First, the industries in which eggs and milk are taken from animals to feed humans cause significant and hellish pain and suffering for animals. Most of the meat eaten in this nation is that of spent dairy cows and laying hens. Most of the billions of male chicks that hatch in hatcheries are thrown away alive and suffocate in trash bags with their dead and dying brothers. Their sisters are forced into slavery as laying hens. Most of the male calves and billie goats born in this nation are barbarically slaughtered on sight or the calves are kept alive for 2 months in excruciating anemic states, until they are slaughtered for veal. They scream for their mothers every day that they endure this separation.

    Second, it is absolutely ABSURD to assert that milking cows does them a favor. Give me a break!!! Why not get a campaign to milk ALL the wild mammals lactating in the the woods. If, in nature, a cow has a calf, she nurses him (just like humans who nurse their children) and her body creates EXACTLY the amount of milk necessary to sustain HER calf until he is weaned.

    Dairy cows are impregnated (with a semen dipped stick jammed into them by a "breeder") annually. Once born, their calves are taken and slaughtered or forced into slavery, and the cows suffer horribly for their whole miserable lives. As a breastfeeding mother, I can imagine no torture more crippling than if my son was taken and killed, and I was forced into a stall and strapped to a milking machine 3 times a day by the lifeforms who had taken my child. The cow KNOWS she gave birth. She MISSES her young.

    Third, I am so mad right now I can barely see the screen. I will answer more of these questions later.

    Just watch "Meet Your Meat" so you can make informed comments in the future.

    April 20, 2008

  • @arcadia:

    So, here's the thing. Up until your misjudged 'contribution' to this discussion, the tone was pretty respectful. Might I suggest that the next time you find yourself so angry you can barely see the screen that you hold off on posting for a while.

    Also caps are not needed. We can all read just fine.

    I am truly offended by the high-and-mighty, holier-than-thou tone of your post. Which I think is completely unwarranted, given that the tone of all contributions to the debate until then seemed to be genuinely respectful, and in the spirit of asking to be better informed.

    Bilby was gracious enough to offer an apology where - in my opinion - none was really warranted. Your posting is - again in my opinion - a disgrace.

    April 20, 2008

  • @sionnach: thank you for saying what I didn't have the guts to.

    P.S. Please ignore the atrocious grammatical structure of that sentence.

    April 20, 2008

  • I can speak only from local experience, but as a former student of agriculture in Australia I can say that there is a discrete beef industry here that is quite separate from the dairy industry. For a start, the breeds that yield the right physiognomy for one are not well-suited for the other. (Square-framed "meaty" Herefords and Angus, for example, versus the high-milk Friesians and high-butterfat Jerseys.) Most of the meat eaten here would come from specialist beef producers, not spent dairy stock. My suspicion is that this would be the same in other countries.

    (This is not an argument for or against the raising of cattle for meat or for milk, just an observation about what happens in the industry and what it is that meat eaters are most likely eating.)

    April 20, 2008

  • I think arcadia has a right to her perspective on this issue - there is a serious issue with the way animals are being treated by the food processing industry. Her entry is extreme, perhaps provocative, but not a disgrace.

    The manner in which the food processing industry treats animals is a subject that's bound to evoke strong opinions.

    April 21, 2008

  • Let's all move to religion now!!!

    J u s t k i d d i n g

    April 21, 2008

  • I agree with sionnach's most recent post and thank him for expressing it so clearly and politely. Wordie is not the place for the kind of posts that pass for communication elsewhere on the Web. While expressing one's opinions in civilized discussion is more than welcome here, offensive and rude behavior is not.

    April 21, 2008

  • A story for you: About a month ago, I discovered an odd little site called Wordie. I was instantly captivated by the site's combination of logophilia and wordplay, but the best part, the part that keeps me coming back, is the attitude of the users. I don't know who these people are in real life, but on Wordie, they're fun, goofy, and witty, and their comments offer a pleasant respite from the bitterness and cynicism in the wider world.

    Unfortunately, every so often, I come across a page like this one, and it sort of ruins the mood. On any other site, I would love this discussion (it's an issue close to my heart, and I think rational argument is a noble activity), but on Wordie, well... it just doesn't fit.

    It's sort of like holding an activists' rally at a kid's birthday party. No matter how just your cause, you're still disrupting the people who are trying to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Take it outside! (er, offsite.)


    A slogan for you: Keep Wordie Goofy!

    April 21, 2008

  • Point taken, Ptero, and a good one.

    One of things I love best about Wordie is its pure whimsy.

    April 21, 2008

  • Upon re-reading my previous post, I agree with palooka. Calling arcadia's post 'a disgrace' was overwrought, and I apologize for that. But I do stand by everything else I wrote.

    I've enjoyed arcadia's previous posts to the site and hope she continues to contribute.

    April 21, 2008

  • Whimsy, yes... that's an excellent word for it.

    April 21, 2008

  • I'm a numbervore. I try hard to keep to that but I usually end up eating my words.

    Seriously, though, Wordie is surely about words and the meanings of words, and not about words and the meanings of Wordies, is it not? Meanwhile, I love Wordie (can I say that?) and ALL who rail in her.

    (To rail = to course/to flow forth/to roll out).

    April 21, 2008

  • I took sionnach's advise, and burnt off some steam before responding. This gave him a chance to take back the word "disgrace" which is nice, but enough was left for me to respond to in a less off-the-cuff way.

    I will never apologize for giving voice to the voiceless, rising to the defense of the defenseless, and generally creating a visual for the atrocities that are kept out of sight. I appreciate that sionnach remembers our former "good terms" and isn't going to hold my convictions against me, because I like him, too.

    friendly So, what are you implying is done with the bodies of billions of spent dairy cows / goats and laying hens if not slaughter for meat? No sarcasm is meant here, but do tell.

    pterodactyl-- you're admittedly newer to this site than I, though I'm no veteran, and I don't mean to offend anyone, but I disagree with your assertion that there can be a right and wrong place to speak to an injustice. I didn't enter this word, nor did I make an appearance until many people with various degrees of knowledge on the subject, made theirs in the conversation that falls under this heading.

    Besides, we're all adults here. I just hope you are willing to administer the same harsh criticism to the sexual conversations that have taken place on this site, and believe me, there are many!

    Thats all for tonight.

    April 21, 2008

  • You know, what we need here is a good Uranus joke. Like "There are strange radio signals emanating from Uranus," or "We need to send a probe deep into Uranus," or "I'd like to explore Uranus more once we've safely touched down."

    You know, something like that...

    April 21, 2008

  • Anybody like some sprouts? I'm growing snow pea, rocket, fenugreek, sunflower and cress at the moment.

    April 21, 2008

  • You're saving this page, skipvia.

    April 21, 2008

  • I don't think I'll ever be hungry for food again.

    April 21, 2008

  • I heart skipvia. But I think we all know that what is really needed is more pictures of thylacines. Bilby?


    April 21, 2008

  • My favourite thylacine picture is of a painting at Angbangbang. It's on this page, about a third of the way down.

    April 21, 2008

  • Who needs thylacines when you've got Angbangbang? That's even better than Uranus!

    Speaking of which..."Our last probe has detected sulfurous fumes rising from Uranus."

    I just never get tired of those...

    April 21, 2008

  • @arcadia: Happy to clarify. I wasn't suggesting that spent dairy stock are not slaughtered for meat (although it's pretty poor quality meat and won't make it into your supermarket as steaks – more likely used for pet food and cheap hamburger patties). I was just pointing that it's probably not the case that "Most of the meat eaten in this nation is that of spent dairy cows…"

    In Australia the dairy population is just under 2 million animals and these animals live some years before being considered "spent"; the beef population is over 20 million animals in order to keep up with domestic and export demand.

    The population stats and the nature of the two industries lead me to conclude that most of the meat eaten in Australia (and likely North America too) is coming from cattle raised for beef production.

    A quick search of stats suggests that only around 15-17% of "cheap" meat categories is sourced from dairy herds. It also seems that the concern surrounding this is as much to do with hormone levels in dairy herds (and therefore what we are putting into our bodies) as it is to do with the cruelty of eating an animal that is no longer considered productive as a dairy cow.

    April 21, 2008

  • Now. Can I point everyone in the direction of the Berlin Philharmonic's latest online game: Cello Hero? (It's actually called Cello Challenge, but we know what they really mean.) It's here.

    April 21, 2008

  • A good Uranus joke skip? Surely the fun of Uranus jokes is that they're all so teriible? :P

    April 21, 2008

  • Exactly, plethora. Like an Ed Wood movie. I believe even sionnach appreciates the beauty that is Ro-Man.

    April 21, 2008

  • frindley, that game is addictive.

    But... something you will probably like as well is now listed on bubble wrap.

    April 21, 2008

  • I'm awesome on the cello. My secret is the custom-made bow from Uranus.

    April 21, 2008

  • I pop all bubbles with a secret tool I found in Uranus.

    April 21, 2008

  • There are only two words to describe what happenss when I play that cello game: epic fail.

    April 21, 2008

  • VEGetAriaN. Wicked:-). Wicked list, too, oroboros.

    April 23, 2008

  • very culture-dependent, this term. if you say you're a vegetarian in Korea, people will assume you eat fish. If you say it in India (or rather, on Koffee with Karan), people will assume you don't eat cheese or egg.

    However, I'm not sure where to put (n): someone who consumes food for nourishment

    May 12, 2009

  • I wonder that, in common use, "vegetarian" has come to describe what is NOT eaten as opposed to what IS eaten. How very negative.

    September 17, 2009

  • JM used to be a vegetarian but that was a missed steak.

    May 31, 2011

  • who is a food refugee? does it equel to vegetarian?

    March 18, 2013

  • No.

    March 18, 2013

  • could you give an explanation, please?

    March 19, 2013