Vanilla is the flavor for food — such as ice cream — that contains extract from the vanilla plant. This word also describes things that are boring or plain.

If something is called vanilla — such as coffee or a milkshake — it's usually flavored with vanilla extract or the seeds from a vanilla pod. Vanilla is the most common flavor of ice cream. This word has another, slightly insulting, meaning: a vanilla movie is plain and kind of boring. A vanilla song is on the blah side. Maybe it's because vanilla food tends to be white and plain that we use this word for other things that are bland.

Definitions of vanilla

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

Vanilla planifolia, vanilla orchid
a climbing orchid bearing a podlike fruit yielding vanilla beans; widely cultivated from Florida southward throughout tropical America
Type of:
orchid, orchidaceous plant
any of numerous plants of the orchid family usually having flowers of unusual shapes and beautiful colors

n a flavoring prepared from vanilla beans macerated in alcohol (or imitating vanilla beans)

vanilla extract
Type of:
flavorer, flavoring, flavourer, flavouring, seasoner, seasoning
something added to food primarily for the savor it imparts

n a distinctive fragrant flavor characteristic of vanilla beans

Type of:
flavor, flavour, nip, relish, sapidity, savor, savour, smack, tang
the taste experience when a savoury condiment is taken into the mouth

adj flavored with vanilla extract

“he liked vanilla ice cream”

adj plain and without any extras or adornments

“the most common type of bond is the straight or plain vanilla bond”
“the basic car is known as the vanilla version”
not elaborate or elaborated; simple

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