ol·​fac·​to·​ry | \ äl-ˈfak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce olfactory (audio) , ōl- \

Definition of olfactory

: of or relating to the sense of smell olfactory receptors olfactory sensations

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Other Words from olfactory

olfactorily \ äl-​ˈfak-​t(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce olfactory (audio) , ōl-​ \ adverb

Did You Know?

Olfactory derives from the past participle of the Latin olfacere, which means "to smell" and which was formed from the verb olēre (also "to smell") and facere ("to do"). Olfactory is a word that often appears in scientific contexts (as in "olfactory nerves," the nerves that pass from the nose to the brain and contain the receptors that make smelling possible), but it has occasionally branched out into less specialized contexts. The pleasant smell of spring flowers, for example, might be considered an "olfactory delight." A related word, olfaction, is a noun referring to the sense of smell or the act or process of smelling.

Examples of olfactory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Both, after all, depend on the body’s ability to recognize and respond to chemicals in the environment, and some immune cells even depend on olfactory receptors to respond to invaders. New York Times, "What Can Covid-19 Teach Us About the Mysteries of Smell?," 28 Jan. 2021 In the summertime, the gardens thrive with bee balm, coneflowers, salvia and lavender, all sending an attractive festival of visual and olfactory cues. Rohan Preston, Star Tribune, "Scandia teen gardener and environmentalist is the butterfly whisperer," 22 Jan. 2021 This tissue becomes inflamed, temporarily disrupting the ability of the olfactory neurons to signal the presence of an odorant. John E. Hayes And Cara Exten, CNN, "At-home DIY smell tests could catch Covid-19 cases," 24 Dec. 2020 Preserving smell requires more than just olfactory information. Star Tribune, "What does history smell like?," 25 Dec. 2020 Richard Axel and Linda Buck had just made their fabulous discovery of the olfactory receptors in the rodent nose, which was the key to understanding how odorants give rise to the sense of smell. Quanta Magazine, "Catherine Dulac Finds Brain Circuitry Behind Sex-Specific Behaviors," 14 Dec. 2020 Each dog's nose has 50 times more olfactory receptors than a human does — along with a brain area dedicated to processing those scents that's 40 times bigger than ours. Starre Vartan, CNN, "These feces-finding Fidos help save orcas and other endangered wildlife," 10 Dec. 2020 Now 39 and in full command of her eponymous four-year-old brand dedicated to frilly, one-off frocks torn from the pages of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Hay is at something of an olfactory impasse. Zoe Ruffner, Vogue, "Batsheva Hay’s Debut Perfume Is a Maximalist’s Fragrance Fever Dream," 14 Nov. 2020 The criteria include any two of the following: fever, chills, myalgia, headache, sore throat, and an olfactory disorder. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "FDA releases data on Moderna’s COVID vaccine: It looks good [Updated]," 15 Dec. 2020

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

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First Known Use of olfactory

circa 1658, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for olfactory

Latin olfactorius, from olfacere to smell, from olēre to smell + facere to do — more at odor, do

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Time Traveler for olfactory Time Traveler

The first known use of olfactory was circa 1658

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Statistics for olfactory

Last Updated

13 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Olfactory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/olfactory. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for olfactory



English Language Learners Definition of olfactory

technical : of, relating to, or connected with the sense of smell


ol·​fac·​to·​ry | \ äl-ˈfak-tə-rē How to pronounce olfactory (audio) , ōl- \

Kids Definition of olfactory

: of or relating to smelling or the sense of smell olfactory nerves


ol·​fac·​to·​ry | \ äl-ˈfak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce olfactory (audio) , ōl- How to pronounce olfactory (audio) \

Medical Definition of olfactory

: of, relating to, or connected with the sense of smell

More from Merriam-Webster on olfactory

Nglish: Translation of olfactory for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of olfactory for Arabic Speakers

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