AskDefine | Define vinegar

Dictionary Definition



1 sour-tasting liquid produced usually by oxidation of the alcohol in wine or cider and used as a condiment or food preservative [syn: acetum]
2 dilute acetic acid

User Contributed Dictionary



Via and ; compare French vinaigre



  1. A sour liquid formed by the fermentation of alcohol used as a condiment or preservative; a dilute solution of acetic acid.
  2. Any variety of vinegar.
    • a range of herb-flavoured vinegars


  • Alabama: finika
  • Albanian: uthull
  • Arabic: (χal)
  • Catalan: vinagre
  • Chinese: (cù)
  • Croatian: ocat
  • Czech: ocet
  • Danish: eddike
  • Dutch: azijn
  • Esperanto: vinagro
  • Finnish: etikka
  • French: vinaigre
  • German: Essig
  • Greek: ξύδι (ksidi) , ξυνό (ksino)
  • Hungarian: ecet
  • Icelandic: edik
  • Ilocano: suka
  • Indonesian: cuka
  • Italian: aceto
  • Japanese: (, su)
  • Korean: 식초 (sikcho)
  • Kurdish:
  • Latin: acetum
  • Neapolitan: acìto
  • Old English: æcced, æcced
  • Polish: ocet
  • Portuguese: vinagre
  • Russian: уксус
  • Serbian: kis , sirće
  • Slovene: kis
  • Spanish: vinagre
  • Swedish: vinäger , ättika
  • Tagalog: suka
  • Thai: (nam-som sai-chu)
  • Vietnamese: giấm
countable: any variety of vinegar
  • Finnish: etikka


en-verb [[]]
  1. To season with vinegar.

Derived terms


to season with vinegar

Extensive Definition

Vinegar is a liquid processed from the fermentation of ethanol in a process that yields its key ingredient, acetic acid. The acetic acid concentration ranges typically from 4 to 8 percent by volume for table vinegar (typically 5%) and higher concentrations for pickling (up to 18%) although in some countries the minimum strength may be less. Natural vinegars also contain smaller amounts of tartaric acid, citric acid, and other acids. It has been used since ancient times, and is an important element in Western, European, Asian, and other traditional cuisines of the world.
The word "vinegar" derives from the Old Spanish vin agre, meaning "sour wine." Louis Pasteur showed in 1864 that vinegar results from a natural fermentation process.

Chemical and physical properties

pH Value

Vinegar has a pH of about 2.4.


Vinegar has a density of approximately 0.96 g/mL. The density level depends on the acidity of the vinegar.


Vinegar has been made and used by people for thousands of years. Traces of it have been found in Egyptian urns from around 3000 BC.
In the Bible, it is mentioned as something not very pleasant (Ps. 69:21, Prov. 25:20), but Boaz allows Ruth to "dip her piece of bread in the vinegar" (Ruth 2:14). Nazirites, on the other hand, were not allowed to drink either wine vinegar or malt vinegar. Jesus was offered vinegar or sour wine while on the cross (Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:36).


Vinegar is made from the oxidation of ethanol in wine, cider, beer, fermented fruit juice, or nearly any other liquid containing alcohol. Commercial vinegar is produced either by fast or slow fermentation processes. Slow methods are generally used with traditional vinegars and fermentation proceeds slowly over the course of weeks or months. The longer fermentation period allows for the accumulation of a nontoxic slime composed of acetic acid bacteria and soluble cellulose, known as the mother of vinegar. Fast methods add mother of vinegar (i.e. bacterial culture) to the source liquid and then add air using a venturi pump system or a turbine to promote oxygenation to give the fastest fermentation. In fast production processes, vinegar may be produced in a period ranging from 20 hours to three days.
Vinegar eels (Turbatrix aceti), a form of nematode, may occur in some forms of vinegar. These feed on the microbial culture that is used to create the vinegar (called mother of vinegar) and can occur in naturally fermenting vinegar. Most manufacturers filter and pasteurize their product before bottling to eliminate any potential adulteration.

Types of vinegar


White vinegar can be made by oxidizing a distilled alcohol. Alternatively, it may be nothing more than a solution of acetic acid and salt in water. Most commercial white vinegars are 5% acetic acid solutions, although some US states such as Virginia have laws prohibiting the sale as vinegar of any product not made from acetous fermentation of alcohol. They are made from grain (often maize) and water. White vinegar is used for culinary as well as cleaning purposes because vinegar can also be used for sterilization.


Malt vinegar is made by malting barley, causing the starch in the grain to turn to maltose. An ale is then brewed from the maltose and allowed to turn into vinegar, which is then aged. It is typically light brown in color. However, most supermarket vinegar is actually extracted from beetroot.
A cheaper alternative, called "non-brewed condiment," is a solution of 4-8% acetic acid colored with caramel (usually E150). There is also around 1-3% citric acid present. Non-brewed condiment is more popular in the North of England, and gained popularity with the rise of the Temperance movement .


Wine vinegar is made from red or white wine, and is the most commonly used vinegar in Mediterranean countries and Central Europe. As with wine, there is a considerable range in quality. Better quality wine vinegars are matured in wood for up to two years and exhibit a complex, mellow flavor. Wine vinegar tends to have a lower acidity than that of white or cider vinegars. There are more expensive wine vinegars made from individual varieties of wine, such as Champagne, Sherry, or pinot grigio.

Apple cider

Apple cider vinegar, otherwise known simply as cider vinegar, is made from cider or apple must, and is often sold unfiltered, with a brownish-yellow color; it often contains mother of vinegar. It is very popular, partly due to its beneficial health and beauty properties. Due to its acidity, apple cider vinegar can be very harsh, even burning the throat. If taken straight (as opposed to usage in cooking), it should be diluted (e.g. with fruit juice) before drinking. Others dilute it with warm water and add some honey. There have been reports of acid chemical burns of the throat in using the pill form.


Fruit vinegars are made from fruit wines usually without any additional flavoring. Common flavors of fruit vinegar include apple, black currant, raspberry, quince, and tomato. Typically, the flavors of the original fruits remain in the final product.
Most fruit vinegars are produced in Europe, where there is a growing market for high-priced vinegars made solely from specific fruits (as opposed to non-fruit vinegars which are infused with fruits or fruit flavors). However, several varieties are also produced in Asia. Persimmon vinegar, called gamsik cho (감식초), is popular in South Korea. Jujube vinegarphoto (called or 红枣 in Chinese) and wolfberry vinegarphoto (called 枸杞 in Chinese) are produced in China.
Umezu (; often translated as "umeboshi vinegar" or "ume vinegar"), a salty, sour liquid that is a by-product of umeboshi (pickled ume) production, is produced in Japan but is technically not a true vinegar.


Balsamic vinegar is an aromatic, aged type of vinegar traditionally manufactured in Modena, Italy, from the concentrated juice, or must, of white grapes (typically of the Trebbiano variety). It is very dark brown in color and its flavor is rich, sweet, and complex, with the finest grades being the product of years of aging in a successive number of casks made of various types of wood (including oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry, juniper, ash, and acacia). Originally an artisanal product available only to the Italian upper classes, balsamic vinegar became widely known and available around the world in the late 20th century. True balsamic is aged for between 3 and 12 years. One can sometimes even find balsamic vinegars that have been aged for up to 100 years, though they are usually very expensive. The commercial balsamic sold in supermarkets is typically made with red wine vinegar or concentrated grape juice mixed with a strong vinegar which is laced with caramel and sugar. However produced, balsamic needs to be made from a grape product.
Balsamic has a high acid level, but the sweetness covers the tart flavor, making it very mellow.


Rice vinegar is most popular in the cuisines of East and Southeast Asia. It is available in white (actually light yellow), red, and black variants. The Japanese prefer a light and more delicate rice vinegar for the preparation of sushi rice and salad dressings. Red rice vinegar is traditionally colored with red yeast rice, although some Chinese brands use artificial food coloring instead. Black rice vinegar (made with black glutinous rice) is most popular in China, although it is also produced in Japan (see East Asian black, below). It may be used as a substitute for balsamic vinegar, although its dark color and the fact that it is aged may be the only similarity between the two products.
Some varieties of rice vinegar are sweetened or otherwise seasoned with spices or other added flavorings.


Coconut vinegar, made from fermented coconut water, is used extensively in Southeast Asian cuisine (particularly in the Philippines, a major producer, where it is called suka ng niyog), as well as in some cuisines of India. A cloudy white liquid, it has a particularly sharp, acidic taste with a slightly yeasty note.


Palm vinegar, made from the fermented sap from flower clusters of the nipa palm (also called attap palm), is used most often in the Philippines, where it is produced, and where it is called sukang paombong.


Cane vinegar, made from sugar cane juice, is most popular in India (भारत) and in the Ilocos Region of the northern Philippines (where it is called sukang iloko), although it is also produced in France and the United States. It ranges from dark yellow to golden brown in color and has a mellow flavor, similar in some respects to rice vinegar, though with a somewhat "fresher" taste. Contrary to expectation, it is not sweeter than other vinegars, containing no residual sugar. In the Philippines, it is often labeled as sukang maasim, although this is simply a generic term meaning "sour vinegar."


Vinegar made from raisins, called khal 'anab (خل عنب) in Arabic, is used in cuisines of the Middle East, and is produced in Turkey. It is cloudy and medium brown in color, with a mild


Vinegar made from dates is a traditional product of the Middle East.


Vinegar made from beer is produced in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Although its flavor depends on the particular type of beer from which it is made, it is often described as having a malty taste. That produced in Bavaria is a light golden color, with a very sharp and not overly complex flavor.


Vinegar made from honey is rare, though commercially available honey vinegars are produced in Italy and France.

East Asian black

Chinese black vinegar is an aged product made from rice, wheat, millet, or sorghum, or a combination thereof. It has an inky black color and a complex, malty flavor. There is no fixed recipe and thus some Chinese black vinegars may contain added sugar, spices, or caramel color. The most popular variety, Chinkiang vinegar, originated in the city of Zhenjiang, in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, China and is also produced in Tianjin and Hong Kong.
A somewhat lighter form of black vinegar, made from rice, is also produced in Japan, where it is called kurozu. Since 2004 it has been marketed as a healthful drink; its manufacturers claim that it contains high concentrations of amino acids.

Flavored vinegars

Popular fruit-flavored vinegars include those infused with whole raspberries, blueberries or figs (or else from flavorings derived from these fruits). Some of the more exotic fruit-flavored vinegars include blood orange and pear.
Herb vinegars are flavored with herbs, most commonly Mediterranean herbs such as thyme or oregano. Such vinegars can be prepared at home by adding sprigs of fresh or dried herbs to store-bought vinegar; generally a light-colored, mild tasting vinegar such as that made from white wine is used for this purpose.
Sweetened vinegar is of Cantonese origin and is made from rice wine, sugar and herbs including ginger, cloves and other spices.
Spiced vinegar, from the Philippines (labeled as spiced sukang maasim), is flavored with chili peppers, onions, and garlic.

Job's Tears

In Japan, an aged vinegar is also made from Job's Tears; it is similar in flavor to rice vinegar.


Kombucha vinegar is made from kombucha, a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. The bacteria produce a complex array of nutrients and populate the vinegar with bacteria which some claim promote a healthy digestive tract, though no scientific studies have shown this to date. Kombucha vinegar is primarily used to make a vinaigrette and flavored by adding strawberries, blackberries, mint, or blueberries at the beginning of fermentation.

Culinary uses

Vinegar is commonly used in food preparation, particularly in pickling processes, vinaigrettes, and other salad dressings. It is an ingredient in sauces such as mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. Vinegar is an essential component of chutneys. It is often used as a condiment. Marinades often contain vinegar.
  • Condiment for fish and chips - Britons commonly use malt vinegar (or non-brewed condiment) on chips; it may be used in other territories where British-style fish and chips are served.
  • Flavoring for potato chips - many American manufacturers of pre-packaged potato chips/crisps feature a variety flavored with vinegar and salt.
  • Condiment for french fries, particularly in the UK, Northeastern United States and universally across Canada (white or malt vinegar).
  • Vinegar pie - is a North American dessert made with a vinegar to one's taste.
  • Pickling - any vinegar can be used to pickle foods.
  • Cider vinegar and sauces - cider vinegar is not usually suitable for use in delicate sauces.
  • Substitute for lemon juice - cider vinegar can usually be substituted for lemon juice in recipes and obtain a pleasing effect.
  • Saucing roast lamb - pouring cider vinegar over the meat when roasting lamb, especially when combined with honey or when sliced onions have been added to the roasting pan, produces a tasty sauce.
  • Sweetened vinegar is used in the dish of Pork Knuckles and Ginger Stew which is made among Chinese people of Cantonese backgrounds to celebrate the arrival of a new child.
  • Red vinegar - Sometimes used in Chinese soups

Medicinal uses

Many remedies and treatments have been ascribed to vinegar over millennia in many different cultures. However, few have been verifiable using controlled medical trials and several that are effective to some extent have significant risks and side effects.


A scientific study published in 2006 concluded that a test group of rats fed with acetic acid (the main component of vinegar) had "significantly lower values for serum total cholesterol and triacylglycerols", among other health benefits.

Blood glucose control and diabetic management

Small amounts of vinegar (approx. 20 ml or two tablespoons of domestic vinegar) added to food, or taken along with a meal, have been shown by a number of medical trials to reduce the glycemic index of carbohydrate food for people with and without diabetes. This has also been expressed as lower glycemic index ratings in the region of 30%.

Diet control

Multiple trials indicate that taking vinegar with food increases satiety (the feeling of fullness) and so reduces the amount of food consumed. Even a single application of vinegar can lead to reduced food intake for a whole day.

Treatment for jellyfish stings

Applying vinegar to jellyfish stings deactivates the nematocysts. However, placing the affected areas in hot water is a more effective treatment because the venom is deactivated by heat. The latter requires immersion in 45 degrees Celsius (113 F) water for at least four minutes for the pain to be reduced to less than what would be accomplished using vinegar. However, vinegar should not be applied to Portuguese man o' war stings, since their venom is different and vinegar can actually cause the nematocysts to discharge their venom, making the pain worse. The hot water immersion or cold ice pack treatments have been shown to be the best for treatment of Portuguese man o' war stings.

Traditional and anecdotal treatments

  • In February 2003, an outbreak in China's Guangdong province of an atypical pneumonia caused massive demand and soaring prices for vinegar, isatis root, and other medicines believed to be useful in killing the infectious agent.
  • The therapeutic use of vinegar is recorded in the second verse of the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill”: “Went to bed and bound his head/With vinegar and brown paper.” As with some nursery rhymes, there is truth in the story. The vinegar used would likely have been cider vinegar.
  • Apple cider vinegar in particular is often touted as a medical aid, from cancer prevention to alleviation of joint pain to weight loss. Claims of its benefits go back at least to Hippocrates. In 1958, D. C. Jarvis made the remedy popular with a bestseller that has sold over one million copies.
  • Many people used to believe the popular urban myth that vinegar was also a cure to mild to moderate sunburn when soaked on the area with a towel or in a bath much like covering a burn with butter.
  • Vinegar is also claimed to be a solution to dandruff, in that the acid in the vinegar kills the fungus Malassezia furfur (formerly known as Pityrosporum ovale) and restores the chemical balance of the skin.
  • Apple cider vinegar is used as a household remedy for common warts.
  • Vinegar can be effective in relieving heartburn.

Veterinary treatment

Vinegar mixed with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is used in the livestock industry to kill bacteria and viruses before refrigeration storage. A chemical mixture of peracetic acid is formed when acetic acid is mixed with hydrogen peroxide. It is being used in some Asian countries by aerosol sprays for control of pneumonia. A mixture of five-percent acetic acid and three-percent hydrogen peroxide is commonly used.

Dangers of Cider Vinegar

There was a reported adverse event (Esophageal Injury by Apple Cider Vinegar Tablets) recorded by members of Department of Human Environmental Science (Human Nutrition), University of Arkansas and available on Pubmed as an abstract of a paper submitted to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association: There is also a paper reporting on a woman in whom chronic ingestion of excessive amounts of cider vinegar caused serious health problems - Hypokalemia, Hyperreninemia and Osteoporosis in a Patient Ingesting Large Amounts of Cider Vinegar, available from

Cleaning uses

White vinegar is often used as a natural household cleaning agent. With most such purposes dilution with water is recommended for safety, reduced risk of damaging certain surfaces, and budgetary reasons. It is especially useful for cleaning mineral deposits on glass, inside a coffee maker, or other smooth surfaces. Vinegar is an excellent solvent for cleaning epoxy resin and epoxy hardener. It will even clean epoxy that is starting to harden. Care should be taken not to allow contact with the eyes (if such contact occurs, the eyes should be flushed immediately and persistently with warm water) or skin (the affected skin area should be washed thoroughly after use). See household chemicals.
Diluted apple cider vinegar can be used to deep clean dreadlocks, removing residue and even beeswax. One method involves spraying a mixture of one part vinegar to four parts water onto the hair, letting it soak in, rinsing with water, and repeating this process as many times as necessary.
A few tablespoons of white vinegar mixed with a few teaspoons of common table salt makes an excellent cleanser for cleaning badly-stained stainless cookware. This vinegar and salt mixture can also remove oxidation from copper-clad cookware and make it shine with practically no rubbing required.
One cup of white vinegar to four cups of water (for a stronger solution, one cup of white vinegar to one cup of water works) makes a fine window-washing fluid, substituting for Windex. If windows appear streaky after washing with vinegar, add a half-teaspoon of liquid soap to the mix. This removes the waxy, streak-causing residue left over by commercial window cleaners.
Drains can be cleaned by using a combination of vinegar and baking soda. Pour one-half cup baking soda down the drain, followed by half a cup of white vinegar. Let sit for a while. Cover the drain while it works, then pour a tea kettle full of boiling water down the drain. This is a good way to prevent build-up in the drain.
Vinegar also works well as a fabric softener; just add half a cup to the rinse cycle.
Add a cup of vinegar to an empty dishwasher and run through the washing cycle to remove mineral deposits and odors. You can also put it in the rinse dispenser instead of Jet Blue.
Removing odors using commercial cleaners often causes damage to surfaces. Vinegar can act as a very effective odor-remover especially in situations involving sensitive surfaces.

Agricultural and horticultural uses

As a herbicide

Vinegar can be used as a herbicide as shown by scientific trials reported by the US Dept of Agriculture in 2002. Vinegar made from natural products classifies as organic and so there is interest in its being used on farms/orchards/gardens certified as organic. The trials showed that a number of common weeds could be effectively controlled using vinegar with 5% to 20% acetic acid. The lower concentration is less effective. A crop of corn can be sprayed with vinegar at 20% strength without causing harm to that crop so it can be used to help keep a corn crop clear of weeds. In Fall 2007, the EPA registered the world's first organic vinegar based weed and grass killer, named Weed Pharm. The product's active ingredient is 200 grain “food grade” vinegar.
Acetic acid is not absorbed into root systems so vinegar will kill top growth but perennial plants will reshoot.
Commercial vinegar available to consumers for household use does not exceed 5% and solutions above 10% need careful handling since they are corrosive and damaging to skin. Stronger solutions (i.e., greater than 5%) that are labeled for use as herbicides are available from some retailers.


  • When a bottle of vinegar is opened, mother of vinegar may develop. It is considered harmless and can be removed by filtering. Colloquially collected knowledge recommends an expiration/shelf life of 12-18 months, though no reference explicitly states its toxicity. Various records can be found warning of decomposition of flavoring elements, such as whole leaves, prepared in the vinegar.
  • When vinegar is added to sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), it produces a volatile mixture of carbonic acid rapidly decomposing into water and carbon dioxide bubbles, making the reaction "fizz". It is exemplified as the typical acid-base reaction in school science experiments. The salt that is formed is sodium acetate. This also serves as a qualitative test for some carboxylic acids.
  • Vinegar is a very effective way to remove rust from metals.
  • Vinegar can be used to clean speed-skates and tracks.
  • Some countries, Canada as an example, prohibit the selling of vinegar over a certain percentage acidity.
  • According to the Sahih Muslim, vinegar is one of the best condiments.
  • Lord Byron would consume vast quantities of white vinegar in an attempt to keep his complexion pale.
  • Posca, a Roman legionaries' basic drink was vinegar mixed with water and optional honey.
  • According to legend, in France during the Black Plague, four thieves were able to rob houses of plague victims without being infected themselves. When finally caught, the Judge offered to grant the men their freedom, on the condition that they revealed how they managed to stay healthy. They claimed that a medicine woman sold them a potion, made of garlic soaked in soured red wine. Variants of the recipe, called Four Thieves Vinegar, have been passed down for hundreds of years and are a staple of New Orleans Hoodoo practices.



See also

vinegar in Arabic: خل
vinegar in Aragonese: Binagre
vinegar in Franco-Provençal: Vinégro
vinegar in Asturian: Vinagre
vinegar in Bulgarian: Оцет
vinegar in Catalan: Vinagre
vinegar in Danish: Eddike
vinegar in German: Essig
vinegar in Emiliano-Romagnolo: Asé
vinegar in Spanish: Vinagre
vinegar in Esperanto: Vinagro
vinegar in Persian: سرکه
vinegar in French: Vinaigre
vinegar in Korean: 식초
vinegar in Italian: Aceto
vinegar in Hebrew: חומץ
vinegar in Kinyarwanda: Vinegre
vinegar in Latin: Acetum
vinegar in Lithuanian: Actas
vinegar in Dutch: Azijn
vinegar in Dutch Low Saxon: Edik
vinegar in Japanese: 酢
vinegar in Norwegian: Eddik
vinegar in Polish: Ocet
vinegar in Portuguese: Vinagre
vinegar in Quechua: Mama aqha
vinegar in Russian: Уксус
vinegar in Sicilian: Acitu
vinegar in Simple English: Vinegar
vinegar in Slovak: Ocot
vinegar in Slovenian: Kis
vinegar in Finnish: Etikka
vinegar in Swedish: Vinäger
vinegar in Tagalog: Suka (sawsawan)
vinegar in Turkish: Sirke
vinegar in Ukrainian: Оцет
vinegar in Venetian: Axedo
vinegar in Yiddish: עסיג
vinegar in Chinese: 醋

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

acid, acidulant, bread-and-butter pickle, brine, chokecherry, crab apple, dill pickle, embalming fluid, formaldehyde, green apple, lemon, lime, pickle, preservative, preservative medium, salt, sour, sour balls, sour cream, sour grapes, sour pickle, sourdough, verjuice, yogurt
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