ol·​fac·​to·​ry äl-ˈfak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce olfactory (audio) ōl- How to pronounce olfactory (audio)
: of or relating to the sense of smell
olfactory receptors
olfactory sensations
olfactorily adverb

Did you know?

Olfactory derives from the past participle of the Latin olfacere ("to smell"), which was formed from the verb olēre ("to give off a 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 Truman’s team looked at a neural center of the larval brain, known as the mushroom body, that mediates olfactory learning. Rivka Galchen, The New Yorker, 31 Aug. 2023 During these fights lions engage in a suite of bodily and olfactory engagements including posturing, roaring and growling, swatting, and biting, and even urination and territorial demarcation. Alexander Richard Braczkowski, Discover Magazine, 14 Aug. 2023 Because olfactory memory is so powerful, guests can build their own signature scents with predetermined notes that will permanently link them to an event, as Lunsford’s fragrance does to her baby shower. Zoe Glasser, Washington Post, 10 Aug. 2023 Its founders aim to celebrate Black and Brown cultures and uplift its people — and all people — through unique sensorial experiences that tap into olfactory wellness (backed by years of research). Lindsey Metrus, Peoplemag, 4 July 2023 As demonstrated in a study published in February in Chemical Senses, the test is able to discriminate accurately between several different olfactory disorders. Hannah Docter-Loeb, Scientific American, 28 Mar. 2023 To pay its olfactory respects to paper, one of mankind’s simplest yet most important inventions, Diptyque turned to legendary perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin, who comes from a family of perfumers and jasmine pickers. Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Robb Report, 3 Aug. 2023 While the double whammy of marshmallow and vanilla may sound like a recipe for olfactory tooth rot, this is instead a plush, enveloping, and truly unmistakable scent. April Long, Town & Country, 26 July 2023 The first channel goes low and relatively slow and spreads through the turbinates before eventually reaching the olfactory region. Matt Hrodey, Discover Magazine, 8 July 2023 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

circa 1658, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of olfactory was circa 1658

Dictionary Entries Near olfactory

Cite this Entry

“Olfactory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/olfactory. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


ol·​fac·​to·​ry äl-ˈfak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce olfactory (audio)
: of, relating to, or concerned with the sense of smell

Medical Definition


ol·​fac·​to·​ry äl-ˈfak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce olfactory (audio) ōl- How to pronounce olfactory (audio)
: of, relating to, or connected with the sense of smell

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