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

The use of olfactory cells appears to be a relatively novel application for spinal cord injuries. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "A gruesome case study points to the hazards of stem cell tourism," 10 July 2019 During my stay for the South by Southwest festival, the same olfactory occurrence would repeat itself frequently: a whiff of perfume on an escalator. Flora Tsapovsky, SFChronicle.com, "Why does San Francisco turn up its nose at perfume?," 10 July 2019 Other large meat-eating dinosaurs, such as Albertosaurus, also had large olfactory receptor gene counts. Michael Greshko, National Geographic, "T. rex had an amazing sense of smell, gene study suggests," 12 June 2019 The researchers will look at how pH levels affect the way fish behave, interact, and respond to olfactory cues. Elizabeth Preston, Science | AAAS, "A growing sensory smog threatens the ability of fish to communicate, navigate, and survive," 20 June 2019 But in the antimap of the olfactory cortex, that’s not the case. Quanta Magazine, "New AI Strategy Mimics How Brains Learn to Smell," 18 Sep. 2018 Perfumania Save on all kinds of fragrances, scented body washes, and lotions at this olfactory mecca. Glamour, "The Best Memorial Day 2019 Beauty Sales to Shop This Weekend," 24 May 2019 Though each holds its own when worn alone, Michele intended for them to be layered with one (or many!) of the line’s seven eaux de parfum so that each #GucciGang member can create his or her own unique olfactory fingerprint. Zoe Ruffner, Vogue, "Meet the Striking New Gucci Perfumes Plucked From Alessandro Michele’s Madcap Mind," 8 Jan. 2019 Fortunately, a few simple tweaks can set you back on the right olfactory course. Kari Molvar, Vogue, "5 Mistakes Most Women Make When Wearing Perfume—And How to Fix Them," 10 Dec. 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

13 Jul 2019

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

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).


to form ideas or theories about something

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