: a quality of something that stimulates the olfactory organ : scent
: a sensation resulting from adequate stimulation of the olfactory organ : smell
: a characteristic or predominant quality : flavor
the odor of sanctity
: repute, estimation
in bad odor
archaic : something that emits a sweet or pleasing scent : perfume
odored adjective
odorless adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for odor

smell, scent, odor, aroma mean the quality that makes a thing perceptible to the olfactory sense.

smell implies solely the sensation without suggestion of quality or character.

an odd smell permeated the room

scent applies to the characteristic smell given off by a substance, an animal, or a plant.

the scent of lilacs

odor may imply a stronger or more readily distinguished scent or it may be equivalent to smell.

a cheese with a strong odor

aroma suggests a somewhat penetrating usually pleasant odor.

the aroma of freshly ground coffee

Example Sentences

The cheese has a strong odor. This deodorant prevents bad odor from occurring.
Recent Examples on the Web That’s why dogs are so effective at sniffing out drugs, bombs, blood sugar changes, corpses, noxious weeds, COVID-19 and nearly anything else with an odor. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 30 Sep. 2022 Surprisingly, the skunk didn't attack the deputy with its odor the entire time! USA TODAY, 22 June 2022 Their olfactory neurons, Vosshall’s team discovered, don’t respond to just a single odor; many of them instead recognize several scents. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 18 Aug. 2022 Police often refer to the odor of marijuana to establish probable cause to search a vehicle. Alex Mann, Baltimore Sun, 17 June 2022 The refreshing mint and eucalyptus scents serve to both mask body odor and soothe the skin in your underarm area. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 June 2022 The crumbs and plastic wrappings from mid-trip snack breaks will begin to pile up on the seats and floorboards, adding to the odor of the car and creating a tasty snack for any nearby ants. Hunter Boyce, ajc, 5 May 2022 For the sixth time, Aurora earned first place in the annual contest where water was judged on taste, odor and color. Beacon-news Staff, chicagotribune.com, 6 Apr. 2022 Say goodbye to body odor, even for the stinkiest of dudes! Joseph Deacetis, Forbes, 27 Jan. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'odor.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English odour, borrowed from Anglo-French odur, borrowed from Latin odor (early Latin odōs), going back to *od-os-, s-stem derivative of a verbal base *od- (whence Latin oleō, olēre, also olō, olere "to give off a smell, smell (of)," from *odere), going back to Indo-European *h3ed-, whence Greek ózein "to smell, give off an odor," Armenian hot "smell, odor" (probably also an s-stem), Lithuanian úodžiu, úosti "to smell, sniff"

Note: The length in the Baltic form is attributed to Winter's Law, which is believed to lengthen vowels before an original voiced, unaspirated stop in Baltic and Slavic in certain environments.

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of odor was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near odor

Cite this Entry

“Odor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/odor. Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

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Kids Definition

: a particular smell
The odor of flowers filled my room.
… the air was … thick with the smell of body odor. Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising

Medical Definition



variants or chiefly British odour
: a quality of something that stimulates the olfactory organ : smell
: a sensation resulting from adequate chemical stimulation of the olfactory organ
a disagreeable odor

More from Merriam-Webster on odor

Last Updated: 4 Oct 2022

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