General English

  • noun one of the five senses, which you can feel through your nose
  • verb to notice the smell of something
  • verb to make a smell
  • verb to bring your nose close to something to smell it


  • noun one of the five senses, the sense which is experienced through the nose
  • verb to produce a smell


  • verb to have a particular smell

Origin & History of “smell”

Smell is something of a mystery word. It is assumed to go back to an Old English *smiellan or *smyllan, but no such verb has been recorded, nor have any related forms in other languages been pin-pointed for certain. One theory links it with English smoulder (14th c.) and the related Dutch smeulen ‘smoulder’, as if the notion of ‘smelling’ arose from the idea of breathing vapour or smoke through the nose.