verb (used with object)

to fuse or melt (ore) in order to separate the metal contained.
to obtain or refine (metal) in this way.

Nearby words

  1. smeller,
  2. smellies,
  3. smelling bottle,
  4. smelling salts,
  5. smelly,
  6. smelter,
  7. smeltery,
  8. smelting,
  9. smersh,
  10. smetana

Origin of smelt

1535–45; probably < Middle Dutch or Middle Low German smelten; cognate with German schmelzen to melt1, smelt



noun, plural (especially collectively) smelt, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) smelts.

any of various small, silvery food fishes of the family Osmeridae, of cold northern waters, as the North American rainbow smelt, Osmerus mordax.
any of several superficially similar but unrelated fishes, especially certain silversides, of California.

Origin of smelt

before 900; Middle English, Old English; compare Norwegian smelta whiting




a simple past tense and past participle of smell.



verb (used with object), smelled or smelt, smell·ing.

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.

verb (used without object), smelled or smelt, smell·ing.

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.

Verb Phrases

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.

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 smelt

British Dictionary definitions for smelt




(tr) to extract (a metal) from (an ore) by heating

Word Origin for smelt

C15: from Middle Low German, Middle Dutch smelten; related to Old High German smelzan to melt

noun plural smelt or smelts

any marine or freshwater salmonoid food fish of the family Osmeridae, such as Osmerus eperlanus of Europe, having a long silvery body and occurring in temperate and cold northern waters

Word Origin for smelt

Old English smylt; related to Dutch, Danish smelt, Norwegian smelta, German Schmelz


a past tense and past participle of 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 smelt
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for smelt




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.

Science definitions for smelt



To melt ores in order to extract the metals they contain. Oxide ores, such as iron ore, are smelted with carbon, which serves as a fuel and changes the ore into a reduced metal.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with smelt


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.