(Anecdotal kickoff)

I recently moved to a new town. While visiting, my mom -- who has a particularly good sense of smell -- noted a constant foulness in the air that I've been unable to pick up on. Clearly, having such an heightened sense of smell can be both a blessing and a curse.

I'm struggling to come up with an adjective that concisely describes this situation. In general, I would call this a "good nose," "sensitive nose," or even "astute nose." None of these quite grasp the light, but empathic tone I'm looking for.

Is there an adjective out there that fits?

Bonus points to whoever can up with a contrasting adjective for my comparatively stunted sense of smell.

3 Answers 3


I think that a comparison or simile would serve you better here than an adjective:

Her sense of smell is as keen as a great white shark's.

for example, or

She has a nose like a bloodhound's.

although the latter may cause people who've never seen your mother to imagine her with a long snout, droopy ears, and doleful eyes.

My wife's sense of smell far surpasses that of anyone else in our family, and when she makes a pronouncement based on her olfactory acuteness, we simply say, "The nose knows."


There are two adjectives that indicate a good sense of smell but not very useful for an everyday speech:


having a keen or sensitive sense of smell.


Sharp-nosed is not common in this sense and it is usually used to mean a thin, pointed nose.


Having or characterized by a well-developed sense of smell.


And osmatic is usually used in medicine and biology. [Another related term is hyperosmia (hyperosmic as an adjective) which is an increased olfactory acuity (heightened sense of smell), usually caused by a lower threshold for odor - Wikipedia]

In the end, your best bet might be not using a single word but saying "having a good sense of smell" or "having a strong sense of smell". Or maybe a simile like "having the nose of a hound".

  • 2
    I don't know: anyone using hyperosmic conversationally is bound to be considered funny. Oct 10, 2014 at 19:45
  • 2
    I would just say 'My friend, who is cursed with the nose of a sniffer-dog, is forced to live with a foul-smelling environment'
    – WS2
    Oct 10, 2014 at 22:17
  • Osmatic sounds very similar to both osmotic and asthmatic, and would easily be mistaken for either of those words — especially as it is so rarely encountered in general usage.
    – Erik Kowal
    Oct 11, 2014 at 2:09

The term that immediately comes to mind is:


Notably it is used in the TV show Psych for the character Burton Guster and his extra-ordinary ability to notice and identify smells which other normal people who are comparatively smelling-impaired cannot.

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