: 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
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

Examples of odor in a Sentence

The cheese has a strong odor. This deodorant prevents bad odor from occurring.
Recent Examples on the Web For yet another Redditor, the mere odor of the food on offer was enough to put them off. Erin Clack, Peoplemag, 29 Mar. 2024 Even though the resulting odor frequently wafts over the neighborhood, that hasn’t stopped the recent skyrocketing of home sale prices and rents, or the arrival of high-end ice-cream shops, supermarkets, and restaurants. Eric Lach, The New Yorker, 26 Mar. 2024 One frequent offender is durian fruit, with its distinctive odor of honey, sewage and rotting onion. Christopher Elliott, USA TODAY, 22 Mar. 2024 At launch, those smells are called Gunfire, Explosion, Forest, Storm, Racing Cars, and Clean Air—perhaps the most important, as it’s intended to neutralize whatever odors may linger. Megan Farokhmanesh, WIRED, 21 Mar. 2024 Residents told The Washington Post that the ensuing odor has been foul enough to sour visitors and drive Kosciusko’s community of about 7,000 people indoors. Daniel Wu, Washington Post, 20 Mar. 2024 Some residents recently complained that its odors are so pungent they have been made to gag or vomit. Tony Briscoe, Los Angeles Times, 10 Mar. 2024 In fact, cleaning cast iron with mild soap once in a while helps remove stubborn residues and odors without stripping the seasoning layer. Maryal Miller Carter, USA TODAY, 21 Mar. 2024 Doing surveillance on foot from an adjacent water treatment facility, Negrete saw telltale signs, such as spray foam filling the seams of the barn walls to mask heat, light and odor. Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, 14 Mar. 2024

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

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 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: the quality of something that stimulates the sense of smell : scent
also : a sensation resulting from such stimulation
odorless adjective

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
odored adjective
or chiefly British odoured
odorless adjective
or chiefly British odourless

More from Merriam-Webster on odor

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