fleh·​men ˈflā-mən How to pronounce flehmen (audio)
: a mammalian behavior (as of horses or cats) in which the animal inhales with the mouth open and upper lip curled to facilitate exposure of the vomeronasal organ to a scent or pheromone
flehmen intransitive verb

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Flehmen comes from German, in which the word applies to animals and means "to curl the upper lip." The German source of the English word is a verb, and it is used, infrequently, as such, as in "the horse flehmened." More often, the English verb form is a gerund: "the horse's flehmening." Flehmen is sometimes capitalized in English because German nouns are capitalized; however, the English word tends to be lowercase.

Examples of flehmen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The flehmen response allows jaguars and leopards to take stock of other animals and identify them from their smell alone, according to Weckworth. Jacquelyne Germain, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Nov. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'flehmen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


German, from flehmen (of animals) to curl the upper lip

First Known Use

1970, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of flehmen was in 1970


Dictionary Entries Near flehmen

Cite this Entry

“Flehmen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flehmen. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

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