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

  • noun Any of various tropical American vines of the genus Vanilla in the orchid family, especially V. planifolia, widely cultivated for its long narrow seedpods, which yield an aromatic substance used especially as a flavoring.
  • noun The seedpod of this plant.
  • noun A flavoring extract prepared from the cured seedpods of this plant or produced synthetically.
  • adjective Flavored with vanilla.
  • adjective Scented with or smelling like vanilla.
  • adjective Lacking adornments or special features; basic or ordinary.
  • adjective White or off-white in color.
  • adjective Slang Relating to or engaging in sexual activity that is regarded as conventional or unadventurous; not kinky, sadomasochistic, or fetishistic.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

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

  • noun (Bot.) A genus of climbing orchidaceous plants, natives of tropical America.
  • noun 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.
  • noun a sweet-scented West Indian composite shrub (Eupatorium Dalea).
  • noun the long capsule of the vanilla plant.
  • noun Same as Holy grass, under Holy.

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

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

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

  • noun a flavoring prepared from vanilla beans macerated in alcohol (or imitating vanilla beans)
  • adjective plain and without any extras or adornments
  • noun a distinctive fragrant flavor characteristic of vanilla beans
  • noun 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
  • adjective 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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  • definition: lacking distinction, ordinary, plain, conventional, cookie-cutter

    January 1, 2007

  • white bread?

    January 1, 2007

  • 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

  • *gasp*

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

    September 17, 2008

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

    September 17, 2008

  • A few vanilla comments lodged over on teleiophile.

    January 25, 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

  • Closely related to horehound.

    March 5, 2009