AskDefine | Define vegetable

Dictionary Definition

vegetable adj : of the nature of or characteristic of or derived from plants; "decaying vegetable matter" [ant: mineral, animal]


1 edible seeds or roots or stems or leaves or bulbs or tubers or nonsweet fruits of any of numerous herbaceous plant [syn: veggie]
2 any of various herbaceous plants cultivated for an edible part such as the fruit or the root of the beet or the leaf of spinach or the seeds of bean plants or the flower buds of broccoli or cauliflower

User Contributed Dictionary



(1350-1400) (adj.), from vegetabilis ("able to live and grow"), derived from vegetare ("to enliven")


  • RP: /ˈvedʒtəbl/
  • /"vEdZ(@)t@b(@)l/


  1. Any plant.
  2. A plant raised for some edible part of it, such as the leaves, roots, fruit or flowers, but excluding any plant considered to be a fruit in the culinary sense.
  3. The edible part of such a plant.
  4. In the context of "metaphorically": A person whose body or brain has been damaged so that they cannot interact with the surrounding environment.


any plant
a plant raised for some edible part of it
some edible part of a plant
a person whose body or brain has been damaged


  1. Of or relating to plants.
  2. Of or relating to vegetables.


of or relating to plants
of or relating to vegetables

Extensive Definition

The term "vegetable" generally refers to edible parts of plants. The definition of the word is traditional rather than scientific, and is somewhat arbitrary and subjective, as it is determined by individual cultural customs of cooking and food preparation.
Generally speaking, a herbaceous plant or plant part which is regularly eaten as unsweetened or salted food by humans is considered to be a vegetable. Mushrooms, though belonging to the biological kingdom Fungi, are also generally considered to be vegetables, at least in the retail industry. Nuts, seeds, grains, herbs, spices and culinary fruits (see below), are usually not considered to be vegetables, even though they are all parts of plants. (There are of course numerous exceptions to this, including tomatoes, corn, etc.)
In general, vegetables are regarded by cooks as being suitable for savory or salted dishes, rather than sweet dishes, although there are many exceptions, such as pumpkin pie.
Some vegetables, such as carrots, bell peppers and celery, are eaten either raw or cooked; while others, such as potato, are traditionally eaten only when cooked.

Is it a fruit or a vegetable?

The word "vegetable" is a culinary term, not a botanical term. The word "fruit" on the other hand can be a culinary term or a botanical term, and these two usages are quite different.
Botanically speaking, fruits are fleshy reproductive organs of plants, the ripened ovaries containing one or many seeds. Thus, many botanical fruits are not edible at all, and some are actually extremely poisonous. In a culinary sense however, the word "fruit" is only applied to those botanical fruits which are edible, and which are considered to be a sweet or dessert food such as strawberries, peaches, plums, etc.
In contrast to this, a number of edible botanical fruits, including the tomato, the eggplant, and the bell pepper are not considered to be a sweet or dessert food, are not routinely used with sugar, but instead are almost always used as part of a savory dish, and are salted. This is the reason that they are labeled as "vegetables". Thus a plant part may scientifically be referred to as a "fruit", even though it is used in cooking or food preparation as a vegetable.
The question "The tomato: is it a fruit, or is it a vegetable?" found its way into the United States Supreme Court in 1893. The court ruled unanimously in Nix v. Hedden that a tomato is correctly identified as, and thus taxed as, a vegetable, for the purposes of the 1883 Tariff Act on imported produce. The court acknowledged that botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit.

A list of vegetables defined as different parts of plants


The word "vegetable" is still sometimes used as an archaic literary term for any plant: vegetable matter, vegetable kingdom. The word comes from the Latin vegetabilis (animated) and from vegetare (enliven), which is derived from vegetus (active), in reference to the process of a plant growing. This in turn derives from the Proto-Indo-European base *weg- or *wog-, which is also the source of the English wake, meaning "not sleep". The word vegetable was first recorded in print in English in the 14th century. The meaning of "plant grown for food" was not established until the 18th century.

In the diet

Vegetables are eaten in a variety of ways, as part of main meals and as snacks. The nutritional content of vegetables varies considerably, though generally they contain a small proportion of protein and fat, and a relatively high proportion of vitamins, provitamins, dietary minerals, fiber and carbohydrates. Many vegetables also contain phytochemicals which may have antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anticarcinogenic properties.


The green color of leafy vegetables is due to the presence of the green pigment chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is affected by pH and changes to olive green in acid conditions, and bright green in alkaline conditions. Some of the acids are released in steam during cooking, particularly if cooked without a cover.
The yellow/orange colors of fruits and vegetables are due to the presence of carotenoids, which are also affected by normal cooking processes or changes in pH.
The red/blue coloring of some fruits and vegetables (e.g. blackberries and red cabbage) are due to anthocyanins, which are sensitive to changes in pH. When pH is neutral, the pigments are purple, when acidic, red, and when alkaline, blue. These pigments are very water soluble.


Many root and non-root vegetables that grow underground can be stored through winter in a root cellar or other similarly cool, dark and dry place to prevent mold, greening and sprouting. Care should be taken in understanding the properties and vulnerabilities of the particular roots to be stored. These vegetables can last through to early spring and be nearly as nutritious as when fresh.
During storage, leafy vegetables lose moisture and vitamin C degrades rapidly. They should be stored for as short a time as possible in a cool place, in a container or plastic bag.
vegetable in Afrikaans: Groente
vegetable in Arabic: خضروات
vegetable in Aragonese: Berdura
vegetable in Asturian: Verdura
vegetable in Bengali: শাক সব্জি
vegetable in Min Nan: Chhài-se
vegetable in Belarusian: Агародніна
vegetable in Bavarian: Gmias
vegetable in Bosnian: Povrće
vegetable in Bulgarian: Зеленчукови култури
vegetable in Catalan: Verdura
vegetable in Czech: Zelenina
vegetable in Welsh: Llysieuyn
vegetable in Danish: Grøntsag
vegetable in German: Gemüse
vegetable in Spanish: Verdura
vegetable in Esperanto: Legomo
vegetable in Basque: Barazki
vegetable in Persian: گیاه
vegetable in French: Légume
vegetable in Gan Chinese: 菜
vegetable in Korean: 채소
vegetable in Croatian: Povrće
vegetable in Indonesian: Sayur
vegetable in Icelandic: Grænmeti
vegetable in Italian: Verdura
vegetable in Hebrew: ירק
vegetable in Javanese: Sayur
vegetable in Georgian: ბოსტნეული კულტურები
vegetable in Swahili (macrolanguage): Mboga za majani
vegetable in Latin: Holus
vegetable in Lithuanian: Daržovės
vegetable in Limburgan: Greunte
vegetable in Hungarian: Zöldség
vegetable in Macedonian: Зеленчук
vegetable in Malayalam: പച്ചക്കറി
vegetable in Malay (macrolanguage): Sayur
vegetable in Dutch: Groente
vegetable in Dutch Low Saxon: Greunte
vegetable in Japanese: 野菜
vegetable in Norwegian: Grønnsak
vegetable in Norwegian Nynorsk: Grønsak
vegetable in Narom: Lédgeunme
vegetable in Low German: Grööntüüch
vegetable in Polish: Warzywa
vegetable in Portuguese: Hortaliça
vegetable in Romanian: Legumă
vegetable in Quechua: Yuyu
vegetable in Russian: Овощи
vegetable in Northern Sami: Ruotnasat
vegetable in Sicilian: Virdura
vegetable in Simple English: Vegetable
vegetable in Slovak: Zelenina
vegetable in Slovenian: Zelenjava
vegetable in Serbian: Поврће
vegetable in Serbo-Croatian: Povrće
vegetable in Finnish: Vihannes
vegetable in Swedish: Grönsaker
vegetable in Tamil: காய்கறி
vegetable in Thai: ผัก
vegetable in Vietnamese: Rau
vegetable in Turkish: Sebze
vegetable in Ukrainian: Овоч
vegetable in Yiddish: גרינצייג
vegetable in Contenese: 菜
vegetable in Samogitian: Daržuovė
vegetable in Chinese: 蔬菜

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Boston lettuce, Chinese cabbage, French bean, Irish potato, Kraut, Swiss chard, amphibian, angiosperm, annual, apathetic, aquatic plant, asparagus, aubergine, bean, bean sprout, beans, beet, beet greens, beetroot, bell pepper, benumbed, biennial, blase, bored, botanic, broccoli, bulbous, butter bean, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, celery cabbage, celery root, celtuce, cereal, chard, chick-pea, chicory, collards, contemplative, corn, cosmopolite, cress, cucumber, cutting, dead, debilitated, deciduous plant, dicot, dicotyledon, do-nothing, dopey, dormant, droopy, drugged, dull, eggplant, enervated, ephemeral, evergreen, exanimate, exotic, farinaceous, flowering plant, fruitlike, fruity, fungus, gametophyte, garlic, green bean, green onion, green pea, green pepper, greens, gumbo, gymnosperm, heavy, hebetudinous, herbaceous, herbal, herbose, herbous, herby, hominy, horseradish, hydrophyte, idle, immobile, inactive, inanimate, inert, jaded, kale, kidney beans, kohlrabi, lackadaisical, laissez-aller, laissez-faire, languid, languorous, leaden, leek, legumes, leguminose, leguminous, lentil, lethargic, lettuce, lifeless, listless, love apple, lumpish, mad apple, maize, meditative, monocot, monocotyl, moribund, motionless, mushroom, navy bean, neuter, neutral, numb, onion, oyster plant, paralytic, paralyzed, parsley, parsnip, passive, pea, pepper, perennial, phlegmatic, pieplant, pimento, pinto bean, plant, plantlike, polycot, polycotyl, polycotyledon, pooped, popcorn, potato, potherbs, procrastinating, produce, pumpkin, quiescent, quietist, quietistic, radicated, radiciform, radicular, radish, red cabbage, red pepper, rhizoid, rhubarb, rootlike, sated, scallion, seed plant, seedling, shallot, sleepy, slow, sluggish, somnolent, sorrel, soy, soya, spermatophyte, spinach, sporophyte, spud, squash, stagnant, stagnating, standpat, static, stationary, stultified, succory, sugar beet, supine, swede, sweet potato, taro, tater, thallophyte, tomato, torpid, triennial, truffle, tuberous, turnip, vascular plant, vegetables, vegetal, vegetarian, vegetational, vegetative, wan, water chestnut, weary, weed, weedy, white potato, world-weary, yam
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