verb (used with object)

to perceive or recognize by or as if by the sense of smell: to scent trouble.
to fill with an odor; perfume.

verb (used without object)

to hunt by the sense of smell, as a hound.

Origin of scent

1325–75; (v.) earlier sent, Middle English senten < Middle French sentir to smell < Latin sentīre to feel; (noun) Middle English, derivative of the v. Cf. sense
Related formsscent·less, adjectivescent·less·ness, nounnon·scent·ed, adjectiveout·scent, verb (used with object)o·ver·scent·ed, adjectiveun·scent·ed, adjectivewell-scent·ed, adjective
Can be confusedcents scents sense

Synonyms for scent

1. See odor. 7. smell, sniff. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for scent

Contemporary Examples of scent

Historical Examples of scent

  • Taking to the water threw the hounds off the scent of the track.

    Biography of a Slave

    Charles Thompson

  • Tse-tse, who trusted me to keep the scent, was watching ahead for a sight of the quarry.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • We dropped behind a boulder and Tse-tse counted while I lifted every scent.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • The professor, who was a kind-hearted man, drew a herring across the scent.

  • The scent of a big item was in his nostrils, and it stimulated him like champagne.

British Dictionary definitions for scent



a distinctive smell, esp a pleasant one
a smell left in passing, by which a person or animal may be traced
a trail, clue, or guide
an instinctive ability for finding out or detecting
another word (esp Brit) for perfume


(tr) to recognize or be aware of by or as if by the smell
(tr) to have a suspicion of; detectI scent foul play
(tr) to fill with odour or fragrance
(intr) (of hounds, etc) to hunt by the sense of smell
to smell (at)the dog scented the air
Derived Formsscented, adjectivescentless, adjectivescentlessness, noun

Word Origin for scent

C14: from Old French sentir to sense, from Latin sentīre to feel; see sense
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 scent

late 14c., sent "to find the scent of," from Old French sentir "to feel, smell, touch, taste; realize, perceive; make love to," from Latin sentire " to feel, perceive, sense, discern, hear, see" (see sense (n.)).

Originally a hunting term. The -c- appeared 17c., perhaps by influence of ascent, descent, etc., or by influence of science. This was a tendency in early Modern English, cf. scythe, and also scite, scituate. Figurative use from 1550s. Transitive sense "impregnate with an odor, perfume" is from 1690s. Related: Scented; scenting.


late 14c., "scent, smell, what can be smelled" (as a means of pursuit by a hound), from scent (v.). Almost always applied to agreeable odors.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with scent


see throw off, def. 3.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.