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[vej-tuh-buh l, vej-i-tuh-] /ˈvɛdʒ tə bəl, ˈvɛdʒ ɪ tə-/
any plant whose fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, or flower parts are used as food, as the tomato, bean, beet, potato, onion, asparagus, spinach, or cauliflower.
the edible part of such a plant, as the tuber of the potato.
any member of the vegetable kingdom; plant.
Informal. a person who is so severely impaired mentally or physically as to be largely incapable of conscious responses or activity.
a dull, spiritless, and uninteresting person.
of, consisting of, or made from edible vegetables:
a vegetable diet.
of, relating to, or characteristic of plants:
the vegetable kingdom.
derived from plants:
vegetable fiber; vegetable oils.
consisting of, comprising, or containing the substance or remains of plants:
vegetable matter; a vegetable organism.
of the nature of or resembling a plant:
the vegetable forms of Art Nouveau ornament.
inactive; inert; dull; uneventful:
a vegetable existence.
Origin of vegetable
1350-1400; Middle English (adj.) < Late Latin vegetābilis able to live and grow, equivalent to vegetā(re) to quicken (see vegetate) + -bilis -ble
Related forms
nonvegetable, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for vegetable
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A fruit and vegetable diet seems sufficient in this climate.

    In the Heart of Vosges Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • The tale of the resources of California—vegetable and mineral—is a fairy-tale.

    American Notes Rudyard Kipling
  • And this is no doubt as true of animal as of vegetable life.

    Life: Its True Genesis R. W. Wright
  • What is the sun's effect on ice and snow, on vegetable and animal life?

    Classic Myths Mary Catherine Judd
  • The flower beds were arranged here and there in the vegetable garden.

British Dictionary definitions for vegetable


any of various herbaceous plants having parts that are used as food, such as peas, beans, cabbage, potatoes, cauliflower, and onions
(informal) a person who has lost control of his mental faculties, limbs, etc, as from an injury, mental disease, etc
  1. a dull inactive person
  2. (as modifier): a vegetable life
(modifier) consisting of or made from edible vegetables: a vegetable diet
(modifier) of, relating to, characteristic of, derived from, or consisting of plants or plant material: vegetable oils
(rare) any member of the plant kingdom
Word Origin
c14 (adj): from Late Latin vegetābilis animating, from vegetāre to enliven, from Latin vegēre to excite
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for vegetable

c.1400, "living and growing as a plant," from Old French vegetable "living, fit to live," from Medieval Latin vegetabilis "growing, flourishing," from Late Latin vegetabilis "animating, enlivening," from Latin vegetare "to enliven," from vegetus "vigorous, active," from vegere "to be alive, active, to quicken," from PIE *weg- "be strong, lively," related to watch (v.), vigor, velocity, and possibly witch (see vigil). The meaning "resembling that of a vegetable, dull, uneventful" is attested from 1854 (see vegetable (n.)).


mid-15c., originally any plant, from vegetable (adj.); specific sense of "plant cultivated for food, edible herb or root" is first recorded 1767. Meaning "person who leads a monotonous life" is recorded from 1921.

Slang shortening veggie first recorded 1955. The Old English word was wyrt (see wort). The commonest source of words for vegetables in Indo-European languages are derivatives of words for "green" or "growing" (cf. Italian, Spanish verdura, Irish glasraidh, Danish grøntsager). For a different association, cf. Greek lakhana, related to lakhaino "to dig."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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vegetable in Medicine

vegetable veg·e·ta·ble (věj'tə-bəl, věj'ĭ-tə-)

  1. A plant cultivated for an edible part, such as the root of the beet, the leaf of spinach, or the flower buds of broccoli or cauliflower.

  2. The edible part of such a plant.

Of, relating to, or derived from plants or a plant.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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vegetable in Science
  1. A plant that is cultivated for an edible part, such as the leaf of spinach, the root of the carrot, or the stem of celery.

  2. An edible part of one of these plants. See Note at fruit.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for vegetable



A person lacking normal senses, responses, intelligence, etc; basket case, gomer, gork, retard: He was fine the first couple of years of marriage, but then he turned into a vegetable

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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