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

  • n. Any of various tropical American vines of the genus Vanilla in the orchid family, especially V. planifolia, cultivated for its long narrow seedpods from which a flavoring agent is obtained.
  • n. The seedpod of this plant. Also called vanilla bean.
  • n. A flavoring extract prepared from the cured seedpods of this plant or produced synthetically.
  • adj. Flavored with vanilla: vanilla pudding.
  • adj. Lacking adornments or special features; basic or ordinary: "We went through a period of vanilla cars” ( Charles Jordan).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any tropical, climbing orchid of the genus Vanilla (especially Vanilla planifolia), bearing podlike fruit yielding an extract used in flavoring food or in perfumes.
  • n. The fruit or bean of the vanilla plant.
  • n. The extract of the fruit of the vanilla plant.
  • n. The distinctive fragrant flavour/flavor characteristic of vanilla extract.
  • n. Any artificially produced homologue of vanilla extract, principally vanillin produced from lignin from the paper industry or from petrochemicals.
  • adj. By association with vanilla as the "plain" flavour of ice cream: the standard, plain, default, unmodified, basic.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A genus of climbing orchidaceous plants, natives of tropical America.
  • n. The long podlike capsules of Vanilla planifolia, and Vanilla claviculata, remarkable for their delicate and agreeable odor, for the volatile, odoriferous oil extracted from them; also, the flavoring extract made from the capsules, extensively used in confectionery, perfumery, etc.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A plant of the genus Vanilla (see def. 3), especially one of several species yielding the vanilla of commerce.
  • n. The vanilla-bean or its economic extract.
  • n. [capitalized] [NL. (Plumier, 1703).] A genus of orchids, of the tribe Neottieæ, type of the subtribe Vanilleæ.

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

  • n. a flavoring prepared from vanilla beans macerated in alcohol (or imitating vanilla beans)
  • adj. plain and without any extras or adornments
  • n. a distinctive fragrant flavor characteristic of vanilla beans
  • n. any of numerous climbing plants of the genus Vanilla having fleshy leaves and clusters of large waxy highly fragrant white or green or topaz flowers
  • adj. flavored with vanilla extract


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

Obsolete Spanish vainilla, diminutive of vaina, sheath (from the shape of its seedpods), from Latin vāgīna.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Spanish vainilla, diminunitive of vaina.



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  • Closely related to horehound.

    March 5, 2009

  • Bilby, I love your vanilla memory (in your comment on teleiophile)! Of course, vanilla is delightful and aromatic. Unfortunately perhaps, in America the word "vanilla" has gained the connotation "plain, simple" and even "boring", thanks largely, I suppose, to the efforts of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream company, who from the 1970s on, with their much-taunted "31 flavors" (they have many more now), sought to convince the American public that there was more to frosty creamy goodness than vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, the holy trinity of American ice cream parlors since at least the 1930s. Vanilla, being white and all, consequently got the rep of being plain, unadventurous, WASPy, middle-class, grandmotherly, infantile, etc. The concept was then transferred to sexual taste, especially perhaps in the gay community, so someone who was unwilling to be bound and gagged, wear a leather harness, have hot wax dripped on his nipples, assume various specific roles and dress in the appropriate garb, etc., was said to be "vanilla" or into "vanilla sex".

    Curious, though, that the word shares an etymology with vagina.

    January 26, 2009

  • A few vanilla comments lodged over on teleiophile.

    January 25, 2009

  • Ah, now I understand. The ice cream treat 99 has a lot more symbolism than just the phallic flake.

    September 17, 2008

  • *gasp*

    On a website profile I described myself as 'a vanilla addict' :-&

    September 17, 2008

  • 1662, from Sp. vainilla "vanilla plant," lit. "little pod," dim. of vaina "sheath," from L. vagina "sheath" (see vagina). So called from the shape of the pods.


    September 17, 2008

  • white bread?

    January 1, 2007

  • definition: lacking distinction, ordinary, plain, conventional, cookie-cutter

    January 1, 2007