What does smell mean?

Definitions for smell

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word smell.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. smell, odor, odour, olfactory sensation, olfactory perceptionnoun

    the sensation that results when olfactory receptors in the nose are stimulated by particular chemicals in gaseous form

    "she loved the smell of roses"

  2. olfactory property, smell, aroma, odor, odour, scentnoun

    any property detected by the olfactory system

  3. spirit, tone, feel, feeling, flavor, flavour, look, smellnoun

    the general atmosphere of a place or situation and the effect that it has on people

    "the feel of the city excited him"; "a clergyman improved the tone of the meeting"; "it had the smell of treason"

  4. smell, sense of smell, olfaction, olfactory modalitynoun

    the faculty that enables us to distinguish scents

  5. smell, smellingverb

    the act of perceiving the odor of something

  6. smellverb

    inhale the odor of; perceive by the olfactory sense

  7. smellverb

    emit an odor

    "The soup smells good"

  8. smellverb

    smell bad

    "He rarely washes, and he smells"

  9. smack, reek, smellverb

    have an element suggestive (of something)

    "his speeches smacked of racism"; "this passage smells of plagiarism"

  10. smell, smell out, senseverb

    become aware of not through the senses but instinctively

    "I sense his hostility"; "i smell trouble"; "smell out corruption"


  1. smellnoun

    A sensation, pleasant or unpleasant, detected by inhaling air (or, the case of water-breathing animals, water) carrying airborne molecules of a substance.

    I love the smell of fresh bread.

  2. smellnoun

    The sense that detects odours.

  3. smellverb

    To sense a smell or smells.

  4. smellverb

    To have a particular smell, whether good or bad; if descriptive, followed by "like" or "of".

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Smellnoun

    Etymology: from the verb.

    Next, in the nostrils she doth use the smell,
    As God the breath of life in them did give;
    So makes he now this pow’r in them to dwell,
    To judge all airs, whereby we breathe, and live. Davies.

    The sweetest smell in the air is the white double violet, which comes twice a-year. Francis Bacon.

    All sweet smells have joined with them some earthy or crude odours. Francis Bacon.

    Pleasant smells are not confined unto vegetables, but found in divers animals. Thomas Browne, Vulgar Errours.

    There is a great variety of smells, though we have but a few names for them: the smell of a violet and of musk, both sweet, are as distinct as any two smells. John Locke.

  2. To Smellverb

    Etymology: Of this word the etymology is very obscure. Stephen Skinner, the most acute of all etymologists, derives it from smoel, warm, Dutch; because smells are encreased by heat.

    Their neighbours hear the same musick, or smell the same perfumes with themselves: for here is enough. Collier.

    The horse smelt him out, and presently a crochet came in his head how to countermine him. Roger L'Estrange.

  3. To Smellverb

    The king is but a man as I am: the violet smells to him as it doth to me; all his senses have but human conditions. William Shakespeare.

    The daintiest smells of flowers are out of those plants whose leaves smell not. Francis Bacon, Natural History.

    Honey in Spain smelleth apparently of the rosemary or orange, from whence the bee gathereth it. Francis Bacon.

    A work of this nature is not to be performed upon one leg, and should smell of oil if duly handled. Brown.

    If you have a silver saucepan, and the butter smells of smoak, lay the fault upon the coals. Jonathan Swift.

    My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life,
    Will so your accusation overweigh,
    That you shall stifle in your own report,
    And smell of calumny. William Shakespeare.

    Down with the nose, take the bridge quite away
    Of him that his particular to forefend,
    Smells from the general weal. William Shakespeare.

    A man so smelling of the people’s lee,
    The court receiv’d him first for charity. Dryden.

    Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall be cut off. Exod. xxx. 38.

    I had a mind to know, whether they would find out the treasure, and whether smelling enabled them to know what is good for their nourishment. Joseph Addison, Spectator.


  1. smell

    Smell refers to the perception or sensation that occurs when olfactory receptors in the nose detect molecules or particles emitted by substances in the surrounding environment. It is one of the five main senses and allows individuals to detect and recognize odors or fragrances. Smell plays a crucial role in taste, navigation, and the overall experience and interpretation of the world around us.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Smellnoun

    to perceive by the olfactory nerves, or organs of smell; to have a sensation of, excited through the nasal organs when affected by the appropriate materials or qualities; to obtain the scent of; as, to smell a rose; to smell perfumes

  2. Smellnoun

    to detect or perceive, as if by the sense of smell; to scent out; -- often with out

  3. Smellnoun

    to give heed to

  4. Smellverb

    to affect the olfactory nerves; to have an odor or scent; -- often followed by of; as, to smell of smoke, or of musk

  5. Smellverb

    to have a particular tincture or smack of any quality; to savor; as, a report smells of calumny

  6. Smellverb

    to exercise the sense of smell

  7. Smellverb

    to exercise sagacity

  8. Smellverb

    the sense or faculty by which certain qualities of bodies are perceived through the instrumentally of the olfactory nerves. See Sense

  9. Smellverb

    the quality of any thing or substance, or emanation therefrom, which affects the olfactory organs; odor; scent; fragrance; perfume; as, the smell of mint

  10. Etymology: [OE. smellen, smillen, smullen; cf. LG. smellen, smelen, smlen, schmelen, to smoke, to reek, D. smeulen to smolder, and E. smolder. Cf. Smell, n.]

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Smell

    smel, v.i. to affect the nose: to have odour: to use the sense of smell.—v.t. to perceive by the nose:—pa.t. and pa.p. smelled or smelt.—n. the quality of bodies which affects the nose: odour: perfume: the sense which perceives this quality.—ns. Smell′er; Smell′-feast, a greedy fellow; Smell′ing, the sense by which smells are perceived; Smell′ing-bott′le, a bottle containing smelling-salts, or the like; Smell′ing-salts, a preparation of ammonium carbonate with lavender, &c., used as a stimulant in faintness, &c.; Smell′-trap, a drain-trap.—adj. Smell′y, having a bad smell.—Smell a rat (see Rat); Smell out, to find out by prying. [Allied to Low Ger. smelen, Dut. smeulen, to smoulder.]

U.S. National Library of Medicine

  1. Smell

    The ability to detect scents or odors, such as the function of OLFACTORY RECEPTOR NEURONS.

Editors Contribution

  1. smell

    The ability to perceive and sense through the nose and related elements.

    My husband did smell my perfume as he was very complimentary.

    Submitted by MaryC on December 31, 2019  

Surnames Frequency by Census Records

  1. SMELL

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Smell is ranked #150452 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

    The Smell surname appeared 109 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 0 would have the surname Smell.

    82.5% or 90 total occurrences were White.
    11.9% or 13 total occurrences were Black.

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'smell' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #3803

  2. Written Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'smell' in Written Corpus Frequency: #2408

  3. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'smell' in Nouns Frequency: #1374

  4. Verbs Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'smell' in Verbs Frequency: #629

How to pronounce smell?

How to say smell in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of smell in Chaldean Numerology is: 9

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of smell in Pythagorean Numerology is: 7

Examples of smell in a Sentence

  1. Jeremiah Osuna:

    It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could, you could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff.

  2. Cecilia Bembibre:

    Since the space has been undergoing important conservation work in the last few years, and the collection was removed, it is reasonable to assume the scent has gone, now the preservation kit we created…(is) now the only existing archive of a lost heritage smell.

  3. Charles de LEUSSE:

    Money doesn’t smell", but feels profiteers … ("L'argent n'a pas d'odeur", - Mais sent les profiteurs.)

  4. Christopher Harley:

    I could smell that beach before I got to Kitsalano Beach, because there was already a lot of dead animals from the previous day, which was not the hottest of three, i started having a look around just on my local beach and thought,' Oh, this, this can't be good.'.

  5. Sandy Phillips:

    I can't go to movies ; I can't even go to indoor venues that have theater seats, when we first came into the courtroom, I had to steel Sandy Phillips against the fear. I can't stand the smell of popcorn. It makes me gag.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for smell

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

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"smell." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 25 Apr. 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/smell>.

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