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See more synonyms for incense on Thesaurus.com
  1. an aromatic gum or other substance producing a sweet odor when burned, used in religious ceremonies, to enhance a mood, etc.
  2. the perfume or smoke arising from such a substance when burned.
  3. any pleasant perfume or fragrance.
  4. homage or adulation.
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verb (used with object), in·censed, in·cens·ing.
  1. to perfume with incense.
  2. to burn incense for.
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verb (used without object), in·censed, in·cens·ing.
  1. to burn or offer incense.
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Origin of incense1

1250–1300; Middle English < Late Latin incēnsum, literally, something kindled, neuter of incēnsus (past participle of incendere to set on fire), equivalent to incend- (see incendiary) + -tus past participle suffix; replacing Middle English ansens, ensenz < Old French < Late Latin as above


verb (used with object), in·censed, in·cens·ing.
  1. to inflame with wrath; make angry; enrage.
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Origin of incense2

1400–50; late Middle English incensen < Latin incēnsus (see incense1); replacing Middle English encensen < Anglo-French < Latin, as above
Related formsin·cense·ment, noun


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for incense

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • He worships every handsome woman, who will allow herself to be polluted by his incense.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • No doubt she could evolve a delicious gum from the mesquite and the incense plant.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • His nostrils tasted the incense of fresh earth and growing things.

    The Monster Men

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • Every day some new matter was reported to incense her against me.

    Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois, Complete

    Marguerite de Valois, Queen of Navarre

  • They spoke to him in a language of love, warm, fragrant as incense.

British Dictionary definitions for incense


  1. any of various aromatic substances burnt for their fragrant odour, esp in religious ceremonies
  2. the odour or smoke so produced
  3. any pleasant fragrant odour; aroma
  4. rare homage or adulation
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  1. to burn incense in honour of (a deity)
  2. (tr) to perfume or fumigate with incense
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Derived Formsincensation, noun

Word Origin

C13: from Old French encens, from Church Latin incensum, from Latin incendere to kindle


  1. (tr) to enrage greatly
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Derived Formsincensement, noun

Word Origin

C15: from Latin incensus set on fire, from incendere to kindle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for incense


late 13c., from Old French encens "sweet-smelling substance," from Late Latin incensum (nominative incensus) "burnt incense," literally "something burnt," neuter past participle of Latin incendere "set on fire" (see incendiary).

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"make angry," early 15c., from Middle French incenser, from Latin incensare, frequentative of Latin incendere "set on fire" (see incendiary). A figurative use of the word used literally in incense (n.). Related: Incensed.

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"to offer incense, perfume with incense," c.1300, from Old French encenser, from encens (see incense (n.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper