I was authoring a letter and made a joke about body odor.

Regarding the visual sense:
"... the beauty is in the eye of beholder..."

Regarding the olfactional sense:
"... the fragrance is in the nostril of..."

Well, of what? Of besmeller?! That can't be right...

Also, I'm curious if my usage of olfactional is correct.

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    For all the creative answers here, I still think if most people needed to express such a sentiment they'd just say something like fragrance is in the nostril of the person who smells it. Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 4:44
  • @FumbleFingers If we're talking the spontaneous and colloquial expression, you'd probably head it depends on who's to smell it. But the question is about an exact translation of hte expression between senses. No natural Englishness is required and weirdification is free to dive into. Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 10:59
  • But that's exactly my point! When all is said and done, every one-word answer here will seem creative/weird/non-idiomatic to native speakers. The only reason you think there might be relevant words for smelling/tasting/hearing/feeling is because we have that "fossilised expression" involving beholder (a word which is almost never used in any other contexts today). Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 14:36

8 Answers 8


I offer inhaler as a simple alternative, but I love @Janus Bahs Jacquet's olfactor.


As z7sg Ѫ (what a tremendously untypable name!) says, ‘smeller’ is the most straightforward answer.

However, ‘smeller’ fails on some levels, since it is in style and register comparable to ‘seer’ or ‘viewer’ (disregarding the air of clairvoyance that ‘seer’ has gained in English). ‘See’ and ‘smell’ are on par, but ‘see’ and ‘behold’ are not: one is colloquial, neutral, and default; the other is formal, archaic, stylised, and quite uncommon in comparison.

Alas, there does not seem to be a similarly stylised and formal synonym for ‘to smell’, so a direct parallel to ‘behold’ does not quite work. But since the sense of smell is quite commonly known to be more formally termed the olfactory sense, and the act of smelling thus also termed olfaction, I would suggest that a better formal and stylised term for someone who smells would be an olfactor.

This word does indeed exist; Wiktionary defines it as:

A smelling organ; a nose.

The OED, however, adds a secondary, rarer, meaning that squares with this (italics mine):

A nose; an organ of smell; (also) a person who perceives smells.

Indeed, there is even a quote from 2002 that shows that you are not the first to come up with this punny parallel to the idiom (nor I with the word):

City Jrnl. (N.Y.) (Nexis) Summer, The smell of urine is in the nose of the olfactor.

So I feel quite safe in suggesting:

The fragrance is in the nose/nostril of the olfactor.

  • +1. Wish I could upvote this more. Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 23:45
  • I wonder about the lack of to smell being on par with to behold. Have you considered to scent? Making it the scenter or, possibly, the scentee if the olfaction is foul and the subjected entity is unwillingly submitted to it. Comment on that? Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 23:54
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    ‘Scent’ to me is not a formal or stylised version of ‘smell’, but a more semantically marked word that means specifically ‘to perceive the smell of something through intentional, keen usage of the nose’. It is the olfactory counterpart to ‘spy’ (in the “I spy with my little eye”), rather than ‘behold’. Also, ‘scent’ implies that the presence of the smell is positive (cf. doft vs. lukt in Swedish), and sounds odd with foul smells. Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:02
  • (“in the” should of course be “as in” in the parentheses in my previous comment) Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:20
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    Ah, great clarification! On an unrelated note, it always shocks me when people know that I'm Swedish (how can they know?!) and, even more so, that non-vikings actually do know the language. That's amazing. And a bit creepy, somehow, haha. I prefer the Nordic tongs to be exclusively "ours" while keeping English the public domain. Not sure why. At any rate - it's impressive when an outsider can compare doft to lukt. Cool! Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:36

It's the olfactory sense and the word is simply smeller.

The fragrance is in the nostril of the smeller.

  • Oh... What an anti-climax. I was expecting a far more sophisticated term... Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 23:34

If you wanted something a little more fun you could say, "the fragrance is in the nostril of the nose...". A nose being another term for a perfumer.

  • Welcome to EL&U! We truly appreciate your input. We also appreciate links to sources where applicable, especially in Answers. You can help us learn by providing links, (even with answers in response to seemingly opinion-based questions as this one is.) Thanks. :) Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:26
  • Thanks, @Susan. I realize this isn't a source - but I hope it will provide some credibility and context. An example of the words usage is here: nytimes.com/2013/11/04/fashion/…
    – skarson
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 16:25

Sniffer is the word I would choose. Dogs who are employed for their sense of smell are called "sniffer dogs". ("Sniffer" might not be as eloquent as "beholder", but smelling things isn't quite as dignified of an act as looking at things.)

A specialist who is employed to sample odors (e.g. perfumes) is called a smell tester.


The Oxford Dictionary of English defines 'behold', as 'to see or observe'. This must mean that 'observation' is possible through the use of a sense other than sight. A blind person can 'observe' by touch, smell, taste or hearing. Even a sighted person can observe that the air is humid. And how do they do that? Certainly not visually.

So I would avoid the inelegance of 'smeller' and say something like 'The fragrance is in the nose of the beholder'. I think that would be quite acceptable, even in the most formal register.

  • I disagree with your conclusion. I'd argue that, although behold can be used as to observe, it's not equivalent. To observe can mean to note as well and that's quite different from to see. So I think that the act of beholding is reserved for visual impressions. Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 23:56
  • I can see your logic, but the end result sounds most peculiar to me. The OED has all in all 19 definitions of the verb, of which eight are directly or indirectly to do with perceiving through the senses—and all eight of these deal specifically with the visual sense. I don’t think the extension of ‘behold’ to other senses really works. Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 23:57
  • So if one were blind, one could no longer 'behold'. I think that David Blunkett, the former British Secretary of State for Education, who has been totally blind since birth might disagree with you. I once heard him describe how he enjoyed the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales as he walked his dog there. Beholding involves more than seeing.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:07
  • Could it be in a more metaphorical sense? As in feel the colors or hear the heat? Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:39

There is no word that captures the intended meaning of the slot in the analogy to see:viewer::to smell:...

(this is termed a lexical gap )

"smeller" seems to fit the gap, but it is just not used in English. There might well be ways around this gap, not expecting a single word, for example, 'the one who smells'.

But the single word that you want just doesn't exist.

  • What about the other suggestions: olfactor, inhaler etc.? Also, if such a lexical gap exists and there's a term not currently used... I see a hammer and I see a nail here... Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:42
  • I'm just telling you in my answer that the other suggestions are not really common or exist or mean what you want (an inhaler is a device that you use to inhale aerated medication). As to hammer and nails, sometimes neologisms catch on but it takes a good ear to pick the right one.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:58
  • Got it. So it take a good ear to do that? One could say that "the euphony is in the ear of the listner"? I think I'll ask this question here too. :) Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 10:45

The fragrance is in the nostril of a perfumist ~

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