smell

1 of 2

verb

smelled ˈsmeld How to pronounce smell (audio) or chiefly British smelt ˈsmelt How to pronounce smell (audio) ; smelling

transitive verb

1
: to perceive the odor or scent of through stimuli affecting the olfactory nerves : get the odor or scent of with the nose
2
: to detect or become aware of as if by the sense of smell
I smell trouble
3
: to emit the odor of

intransitive verb

1
: to exercise the sense of smell
2
a(1)
: to have an odor or scent
(2)
: to have a characteristic aura or atmosphere : smack
the accounts … seemed to me to smell of truthR. S. Bourne
also : seem, appear
the story didn't smell right
b(1)
: to have an offensive odor : stink
(2)
: to be of bad or questionable quality
all this from the moral point of view smellsA. F. Wills
smeller noun

smell

2 of 2

noun

1
: the property of a thing that affects the olfactory organs : odor
2
a
: the process, function, or power of smelling
b
: the sense concerned with the perception of odor
3
a
: a very small amount : trace
add only a smell of garlic
b
: a pervading or characteristic quality : aura
the smell of affluence, of powerHarry Hervey
4
: an act or instance of smelling
Phrases
smell a rat
: to have a suspicion of something wrong
smell blood
: to sense an opponent's weakness or vulnerability
smell the roses
: to enjoy or savor life
Choose the Right Synonym for smell

smell, scent, odor, aroma mean the quality that makes a thing perceptible to the olfactory sense.

smell implies solely the sensation without suggestion of quality or character.

an odd smell permeated the room

scent applies to the characteristic smell given off by a substance, an animal, or a plant.

the scent of lilacs

odor may imply a stronger or more readily distinguished scent or it may be equivalent to smell.

a cheese with a strong odor

aroma suggests a somewhat penetrating usually pleasant odor.

the aroma of freshly ground coffee

Examples of smell in a Sentence

Verb She leaned over and smelled the flowers. I have a cold right now so I can't smell. I can't smell anything because I'm so stuffed up. I could smell dinner cooking. I think I smell gas. This car smells like mold. Can't you smell the profits? Noun the distinctive smell of onions Dogs have a keen sense of smell.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Scientists made an exciting -- and pungent -- announcement about a nearby exoplanet this week, finding that a planetary body with a likeness to Jupiter smells of rotten eggs. Leah Sarnoff, ABC News, 9 July 2024 But how does a play evoke synesthesia, a phenomenon in which the senses entwine in atypical ways, allowing for perceptions like smelling sounds or tasting colors? Celia Wren, Washington Post, 4 July 2024
Noun
Williams’ body was discovered after neighbors complained of the smell and called 911. Thomas Tracy, New York Daily News, 11 July 2024 The sharp smell of vinegar and salt coming from Thrasher’s French Fries and the sweet, irresistible aroma of caramel wafting out of Fisher’s Popcorn. Tim Ebner, Washington Post, 10 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for smell 

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

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English

First Known Use

Verb

12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of smell was in the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near smell

Cite this Entry

“Smell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/smell. Accessed 14 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

smell

1 of 2 verb
smelled ˈsmeld How to pronounce smell (audio) or smelt ˈsmelt How to pronounce smell (audio) ; smelling
1
: to become aware of an odor by means of the sense organs located in the nose
smell dinner cooking
2
: to detect or become aware of as if by the sense of smell
smell trouble
3
: to use the sense of smell
4
a
: to have or give off an odor
the candles smell like roses
b
: to have a disagreeable odor : stink
c
: to give a hint or trace of something
the plan smells of trickery
smeller noun

smell

2 of 2 noun
1
2
: the process or power of becoming aware of an odor
also : the sense by which one detects odor
3
: a special quality associated with a given source : aura
the smell of adventure
4
: an act of smelling

Medical Definition

smell

1 of 2 verb
smelled ˈsmeld How to pronounce smell (audio) or smelt ˈsmelt How to pronounce smell (audio) ; smelling

transitive verb

: to perceive the odor or scent of through stimuli affecting the olfactory nerves : get the odor or scent of with the nose

intransitive verb

: to exercise the sense of smell

smell

2 of 2 noun
1
: the property of a thing that affects the olfactory organs : odor
2
: the special sense concerned with the perception of odor

More from Merriam-Webster on smell

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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