ol·​fac·​to·​ry | \äl-ˈfak-t(ə-)rē, 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, 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

The molecules stick to a layer of mucus on the upper surface of the cavity, embedded with olfactory neurons. Tim Folger, Discover Magazine, "How Quantum Mechanics Lets Us See, Smell and Touch," 24 Oct. 2018 Kashiwadani said that with continuous exposure, the olfactory system gets used to the odor and responds less. Joanna Klein, The Seattle Times, "Lavender’s soothing scent could be more than just folk medicine," 26 Oct. 2018 Turin’s idea remains contentious — his experimental data have divided the interdisciplinary community of olfactory researchers. Tim Folger, Discover Magazine, "How Quantum Mechanics Lets Us See, Smell and Touch," 24 Oct. 2018 The researchers then exposed them to scents and the simulated swat while recording the activity of the neurons in the olfactory center of the insects’ brains, which process scent information. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Swatting May Teach Mosquitoes to Avoid Your Scent," 5 Feb. 2018 In Europe, Latin America, and other scent-forward parts of the world, though, the olfactory coming-of-age happens much earlier. Kari Molvar, Vogue, "How Young Is Too Young for a First Perfume?," 11 May 2018 Common olfactory hallucinations include lots of icky odors. NBC News, "Phantom smells may be a sign of trouble," 10 July 2018 Every team’s hospitality suite is positioned immediately above its garage, giving well-off fans (and stray journalists like me) the best aural and olfactory experience of the race, if not the best viewing angle. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "In Formula 1, you have to be amazing just to be average," 26 June 2018 Here's a snapshot: While humans have about 6 million olfactory receptors in their noses, dog noses contain upwards of 300 million. Southern Living, "10 Things You Should Know About Your Dog," 3 July 2018

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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Statistics for olfactory

Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for olfactory

The first known use of olfactory was circa 1658

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More Definitions for olfactory



English Language Learners Definition of olfactory

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


ol·​fac·​to·​ry | \äl-ˈfak-tə-rē, 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, ōl- \

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).


to make faulty or ineffective

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