1
a
: a quality of something that stimulates the olfactory organ : scent
b
: a sensation resulting from adequate stimulation of the olfactory organ : smell
2
a
: a characteristic or predominant quality : flavor
the odor of sanctity
b
: repute, estimation
in bad odor
3
archaic : something that emits a sweet or pleasing scent : perfume
odored adjective
odorless adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for odor

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

Example Sentences

The cheese has a strong odor. This deodorant prevents bad odor from occurring.
Recent Examples on the Web The antibacterial properties specifically target bacteria causing foul body odor. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 May 2022 The water that does come out of their faucets has a foul odor, often described as sewage, and is either cloudy or brown. Dallas News, 15 Feb. 2022 Some removable wallpaper can give off a smell, but that's usually due to the adhesion, and the odor goes away after application. Erin Johnson, Southern Living, 21 Jan. 2023 Deputies then searched Khalieff Adams, who initially resisted, and found Percocet, marijuana, tobacco and other contraband wrapped in plastic and food seasonings to hide the odor, the state said. Shaddi Abusaid, ajc, 20 Jan. 2023 Deputies then searched Khalieff Adams, who initially resisted, and found Percocet, marijuana, tobacco and other contraband wrapped in plastic and food seasonings to hide the odor, according to the motion. Jozsef Papp, al, 19 Jan. 2023 Hikers eventually noticed a strange odor in the Santa Monica Mountains of Mulholland Highway on Oct. 3. Audrey Conklin, Fox News, 18 Jan. 2023 Once touted as the future of money, a challenge to the world’s central banks, not to mention a clever investment, crypto now carries the odor of disaster. David Segal, New York Times, 17 Jan. 2023 Live-poultry stores draw immigrants for whom a barnyard odor means farm-fresh meat. Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune, 15 Jan. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'odor.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English odour, borrowed from Anglo-French odur, borrowed from Latin odor (early Latin odōs), going back to *od-os-, s-stem derivative of a verbal base *od- (whence Latin oleō, olēre, also olō, olere "to give off a smell, smell (of)," from *odere), going back to Indo-European *h3ed-, whence Greek ózein "to smell, give off an odor," Armenian hot "smell, odor" (probably also an s-stem), Lithuanian úodžiu, úosti "to smell, sniff"

Note: The length in the Baltic form is attributed to Winter's Law, which is believed to lengthen vowels before an original voiced, unaspirated stop in Baltic and Slavic in certain environments.

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of odor was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near odor

Cite this Entry

“Odor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/odor. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

odor

noun
: the quality of something that stimulates the sense of smell : scent
also : a sensation resulting from such stimulation
odorless adjective

Medical Definition

odor

noun
variants or chiefly British odour
1
: a quality of something that stimulates the olfactory organ : smell
2
: a sensation resulting from adequate chemical stimulation of the olfactory organ
a disagreeable odor
odored adjective
or chiefly British odoured
odorless adjective
or chiefly British odourless

More from Merriam-Webster on odor

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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