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 olfactorily (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 And yet, The Masticator is happy to contribute still more olfactory content to mingle with the body odor and dried urine. BostonGlobe.com, "The 16 worst people on the T, ranked - The Boston Globe," 4 Nov. 2019 Strangest of all were the olfactory sensors, sniffing out ammonia in human urine. The Economist, "Artificial intelligence is changing every aspect of war," 7 Sep. 2019 The olfactory components are much more complicated, and mostly have to do with the human's genetics, according to Rosen. Elizabeth King, Allure, "Why Mosquitos Bite Some People More Than Others," 8 Aug. 2019 Doctors there transplanted olfactory mucosal cells drawn from his upper nasal passages into the site of his spinal injury. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "A gruesome case study points to the hazards of stem cell tourism," 10 July 2019 One of the easiest (and most pleasant) ways to achieve these benefits is through aromatherapy, where these concentrated oils are breathed in, allowing them to stimulate the olfactory system in the brain. Allure, "19 of the Best Essential Oil Diffusers to Make Your Home Smell Amazing," 23 Nov. 2019 Touring today’s Temecula is as much about the surroundings as the olfactory senses. BostonGlobe.com, "Wine lovers take note: Temecula, California, is the next Napa Valley - The Boston Globe," 1 Nov. 2019 Consider the nine fragrances a perfect crystallization of the Celine aesthetic in olfactory form: They’re elegant, understated, and the last word in chic. April Long, Town & Country, "Celine Has Its Own Haute Perfumerie Now," 5 Nov. 2019 If fencing is impractical, then using pellets, powder or spray can be employed as an olfactory disincentive. Earl Nickel, SFChronicle.com, "How to keep pesky visitors out of the garden," 20 Sep. 2019

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

12 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Olfactory.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/olfactory. Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for olfactory


How to pronounce olfactory (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on olfactory

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with olfactory

Spanish Central: Translation of olfactory

Nglish: Translation of olfactory for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of olfactory for Arabic Speakers

Comments on olfactory

What made you want to look up olfactory? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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