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  1. a strong, unpleasant smell.
  2. vapor or steam.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to smell strongly and unpleasantly.
  2. to be strongly pervaded with something unpleasant or offensive.
  3. to give off steam, smoke, etc.
  4. to be wet with sweat, blood, etc.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to give off; emit; exude.
  2. to expose to or treat with smoke.
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Origin of reek

before 900; (noun) Middle English rek(e), Old English rēc smoke; cognate with German rauch, Dutch rook, Old Norse reykr; (v.) Middle English reken to smoke, steam, Old English rēocan
Related formsreek·er, nounreek·ing·ly, adverbreek·y, adjective

Synonyms for reek

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

Related Words for reek

stink, effluvium, smell, stench, fetor, mephitis, fume, steam, smoke, emit

Examples from the Web for reek

Contemporary Examples of reek

Historical Examples of reek

  • In later years our lips grow tainted and reek of our passions.

  • The reek of spirits, the greasy rancid steam of food got Razumov by the throat.

    Under Western Eyes

    Joseph Conrad

  • The air, which should have been clean, was filled with the reek of unfamiliar odors.

    The Whispering Spheres

    Russell Robert Winterbotham

  • Involuntarily I turned my head away at the reek of his breath.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • Here we are all just ready to drop down, and the critters all in a reek of sweat.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Harriet Beecher Stowe

British Dictionary definitions for reek


  1. (intr) to give off or emit a strong unpleasant odour; smell or stink
  2. (intr often foll by of) to be permeated (by); be redolent (of)the letter reeks of subservience
  3. (tr) to treat with smoke; fumigate
  4. (tr) mainly dialect to give off or emit (smoke, fumes, vapour, etc)
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  1. a strong offensive smell; stink
  2. mainly dialect smoke or steam; vapour
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Derived Formsreeking, adjectivereekingly, adverbreeky, adjective

Word Origin for reek

Old English rēocan; related to Old Frisian riāka to smoke, Old High German rouhhan, Old Norse rjūka to smoke, steam
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 reek


Old English rec (Anglian), riec (West Saxon), "smoke from burning material," probably from a Scandinavian source, cf. Old Norse reykr, Danish rǿg, Swedish rök "smoke, steam," from Proto-Germanic *raukiz (cf. Old Frisian rek, Middle Dutch rooc, Old High German rouh, German Rauch "smoke, steam"), from PIE *reug- "to vomit, belch;" also "smoke, cloud." Sense of "stench" is attested 1650s, via the notion of "that which rises" (cf. reek (v.)).

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Old English recan (Anglian), reocan (West Saxon) "emit smoke," from Proto-Germanic *reukanan (cf. Old Frisian reka "smoke," Middle Dutch roken, Dutch rieken "to smoke," Old High German riohhan "to smoke, steam," German rauchen "to smoke," riechen "to smell").

Originally a strong verb, with past tense reac, past participle gereocen, but occasionally showing weak conjugation in Old English. Meaning "to emit smoke;" meaning "to emit a bad smell" is recorded from 1710 via sense "be heated and perspiring" (early 15c.). Related: Reeked; reeking.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper