- to perceive the odor or scent of through the nose by means of the olfactory nerves; inhale the odor of: I smell something burning.
- to test by the sense of smell: She smelled the meat to see if it was fresh.
- to perceive, detect, or discover by shrewdness or sagacity: The detective smelled foul play.
- to perceive something by its odor or scent.
- to search or investigate (followed by around or about).
- to give off or have an odor or scent: Do the yellow roses smell?
- to give out an offensive odor; stink.
- to have a particular odor (followed by of): My hands smell of fish.
- to have a trace or suggestion (followed by of).
- Informal. to be of inferior quality; stink: The play is good, but the direction smells.
- Informal. to have the appearance or a suggestion of guilt or corruption: They may be honest, but the whole situation smells.
- the sense of smell; faculty of smelling.
- the quality of a thing that is or may be smelled; odor; scent.
- a trace or suggestion.
- an act or instance of smelling.
- a pervading appearance, character, quality, or influence: the smell of money.
- smell out, to look for or detect as if by smelling; search out: to smell out enemy spies.
- smell up, to fill with an offensive odor; stink up: The garbage smelled up the yard.
- smell a rat. rat(def 6).
Origin of smell
SynonymsSee more synonyms for smell on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for smell
There is the smell here of an indecent rush for scapegoats, even before we know what really caused this crash.Annoying Airport Delays Might Prevent You From Becoming the Next AirAsia 8501
January 6, 2015
The smell of grilled meat mixes with the exotic wafts of cinnamon tea served with a mush of sweet brown dessert.The Photographer Who Gave Up Manhattan for Marrakech
January 6, 2015
“J.W. heard Hayden say softly, ‘You smell good,’” the papers report.Rape, Lies & Videotape in Ferguson
November 18, 2014
“They see the crowds, they smell the hot dogs,” said Dolan, playing out the metaphor.Pope Francis Wins a Battle to Welcome Gays in the Church
Barbie Latza Nadeau
October 20, 2014
I could smell the patchouli oil he was wearing as well as the incense that was burning in the studio.When Gary Wright Met George Harrison: Dream Weaver, John and Yoko, and More
September 29, 2014
Then came smoke, the smell of scorching linen, and a cry of horror from Celine.The Spenders
Harry Leon Wilson
For in those days men could smell weather quite as well as the other animals.
There was a smell of cooking, and the people gathering between the huts.
He could smell Indians in hiding and wood smoke three leagues away.
But Colley ain't no good on Diablo, an' if he can smell Shandy, that settles it—it's all over.Thoroughbreds
W. A. Fraser
- (tr) to perceive the scent or odour of (a substance) by means of the olfactory nerves
- (copula) to have a specified smell; appear to the sense of smell to bethe beaches smell of seaweed; some tobacco smells very sweet
- (intr often foll by of) to emit an odour (of)the park smells of flowers
- (intr) to emit an unpleasant odour; stink
- (tr often foll by out) to detect through shrewdness or instinct
- (intr) to have or use the sense of smell; sniff
- (intr foll by of) to give indications (of)he smells of money
- (intr; foll by around, about, etc) to search, investigate, or pry
- (copula) to be or seem to be untrustworthy or corrupt
- smell a rat to detect something suspicious
- that sense (olfaction) by which scents or odours are perceivedRelated adjective: olfactory
- anything detected by the sense of smell; odour; scent
- a trace or indication
- the act or an instance of smelling
Word Origin and History for smell
late 12c., "emit or perceive an odor," not found in Old English, perhaps cognate with Middle Dutch smolen, Low German smelen "to smolder" (see smolder). However, OED says "no doubt of Old English origin, but not recorded, and not represented in any of the cognate languages." Related: Smelled or smelt; smelling.
Smelling salts (1840), used to revive the woozy, typically were a scented preparation of carbonate of ammonia. Smell-feast (n.) "one who finds and frequents good tables, one who scents out where free food is to be had" is from 1510s ("very common" c.1540-1700, OED). Smell-smock "licentious man" was in use c.1550-c.1900. To smell a rat "be suspicious" is from 1540s.
- To perceive the scent of something by means of the olfactory nerves.
- The sense by which odors are perceived; the olfactory sense.