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

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 ("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 One was hypothesis driven, in that it was limited to all the structures that are known to be one or two connections removed from the olfactory nerves in the nose. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 9 Mar. 2022 April 30-May 1: Rose enthusiasts will be in visual and olfactory heaven at the 94th annual Rose Show & California Coastal Rose Society Auction. San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 Apr. 2022 It's been six years since Boy Smells took the stank of cannabis leaf and turned it into an olfactory dream with its Kush candle, which remains a best seller to this day. Jihan Forbes, Allure, 20 Apr. 2022 When the olfactory bulb tissues were compared, the patients with COVID-19 had fewer nerve fibers in their olfactory bulbs, researchers said in a news release. Julie Washington, cleveland, 15 Apr. 2022 His first fragrance, Green, stemmed from a bittersweet memory of his father, who left when Gorham was young, and who smelled like green beans to him as a child—an olfactory idea that was expertly rendered in jasmine and musk notes. Celia Ellenberg, Vogue, 23 Mar. 2022 Legend Red woody fragrance where the the olfactory experience makes his heart beat a little faster during your intimate time together. Joseph Deacetis, Forbes, 27 Jan. 2022 The virus may simply inflame the lining of the nose, preventing odor compounds from reaching the olfactory sensory neurons at the top of the nasal cavity. Scott Sayare, Harper's Magazine, 23 Nov. 2021 Insects, including bees and butterflies, smell using their antennae, which are covered in olfactory receptors that detect odor compounds. Jennifer Clare Ball, Wired, 25 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About olfactory

Time Traveler for olfactory

Time Traveler

The first known use of olfactory was circa 1658

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About olfactory

Dictionary Entries Near olfactory



olfactory bulb

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for olfactory

Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Olfactory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/olfactory. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for olfactory


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


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!