Vanilla bean


[vuh-nil-uh or, often, -nel-uh]
any tropical, climbing orchid of the genus Vanilla, especially V. planifolia, bearing podlike fruit yielding an extract used in flavoring food, in perfumery, etc.
Also called vanilla bean. the fruit or bean of this orchid.
the extract of this fruit.
containing or flavored with vanilla: vanilla custard.
Informal. plain-vanilla.

1655–65; < Neo-Latin < Spanish vainilla little pod, equivalent to vain(a) a sheath (< Latin vāgīna sheath) + -illa diminutive suffix (< LL) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
vanilla (vəˈnɪlə)
1.  any tropical climbing orchid of the genus Vanilla, esp V. plonifolia, having spikes of large fragrant greenish-yellow flowers and long fleshy pods containing the seeds (beans)
2.  the pod or bean of certain of these plants, used to flavour food, etc
3.  a flavouring extract prepared from vanilla beans and used in cooking
4.  flavoured with or as if with vanilla: vanilla ice cream
5.  slang ordinary or conventional: a vanilla kind of guy
[C17: from New Latin, from Spanish vainilla pod, from vaina a sheath, from Latin vāgīna sheath]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

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. European discovery 1521 by Hernando Cortes' soldiers on reconnaissance in southeastern Mexico. Meaning "conventional,
of ordinary sexual preferences" is 1970s, from notion of whiteness and the common choice of vanilla ice cream. Vanillin is from 1868.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

vanilla va·nil·la (və-nĭl'ə)

  1. Any of various tropical American vines of the genus Vanilla, especially V. planifolia, cultivated for its long narrow seedpods from which a flavoring agent is obtained.

  2. The seedpod of this plant. Also called vanilla bean.

  3. A flavoring extract prepared from the cured seedpods of this plant or produced synthetically.

Flavored with vanilla.

vanilla bean n.
See vanilla.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
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