Nearby words

  1. smedley,
  2. smee,
  3. smeech,
  4. smegma,
  5. smegmalith,
  6. smell a rat,
  7. smell fishy,
  8. smell to high heaven,
  9. smell up,
  10. smeller


    smell a rat. rat(def 6).

Origin of smell

1125–75; early Middle English smell, smull (noun), smellen, smullen (v.) < ?

Related forms Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for smell

British Dictionary definitions for smell


verb smells, smelling, smelt or smelled

(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
Derived Formssmeller, noun

Word Origin for smell

C12: of uncertain origin; compare Middle Dutch smölen to scorch

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 smell
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for smell




To perceive the scent of something by means of the olfactory nerves.


The sense by which odors are perceived; the olfactory sense.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with smell


In addition to the idioms beginning with smell

  • smell a rat
  • smell fishy
  • smell to high heaven
  • smell up

also see:

  • come up (smelling like) roses
  • stink (smell) to high heaven
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.