Is there an adjective to describe an overpowering odor comparable to deafening for an overpowering noise?

That strong, loud noise is deafening.

That strong, pungent odor is ____.

It may be that there is no equivalent word. But surely some have encountered an overpowering odor. What is that action called?

  • Welcome to English Language SE and thank you for your question. I edited your question to remove instances of “overpowered by an odor”, since this does not seem to be exactly what you are looking for. Please check that everything is still according to your intentions and feel free to edit if it isn’t. – Wrzlprmft Dec 12 '16 at 17:19
  • Of the five basic senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell), we have specific words for loss of three (blinded, deafened, numbed). But I don't think there are equivalents for the other two - and I suffered the misery of being XXXX'ed by Lamisil for months (made even worse by the fear that it might be permanent). With all my scouring of the Net for advice at the time, I think I'd have noticed if there'd been any such word. – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '16 at 17:24
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    Other adjectives related to stench bad feculent fulsome high caprylic fetid fusty jumentous corky foul graveolent maleolent empyreumatic frowzy halitotic malodorous – Hot Licks Dec 12 '16 at 17:52
  • The word anosmia (from Oxford Living Dictionary) is the noun for absence of the sense of smell, but I don't think there's verb for causing anosmia. – Katherine Lockwood Dec 12 '16 at 17:57
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    While eyesight and hearing are senses which can be dulled or damaged by an overly intense stimulus, the same isn't true of senses such as taste or sense of smell. It really isn't possible to have an odor so strong as to damage one's olfactory system. An odor can be intense to the point of being unpleasant or painful, but it can't really be intense to the point of losing one's sense of smell the way sights and sounds can be intense to the point of causing blindness or deafness. – Dr. Funk Dec 12 '16 at 19:45

May not be an exact counterpart of deafening, but suffocating may help. If a loud sound can be uncomfortable by being deafening, a strong smell can be uncomfortable by being suffocating.

That strong, pungent odor is suffocating.


suffocate VERB

1.1 Have or cause to have difficulty in breathing

‘Scheele described the chlorine gas formed as having a greenish yellow color and a suffocating odor ‘most oppressive to the lungs.’’


I have not heard anyone call a noise 'overpowering'. The word people use for overwhelming noise is deafening.

If a smell is overwhelming the usual response is to say it is overpowering (that overpowers (in various senses of the verb); overwhelming (OED)).

  • The OP used overpowering four times in his question. He is asking for another word. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Dec 12 '16 at 23:47
  • @ab2 - fair point. It is, however, the obvious word to me. Asking for another word when there is a good one already seems unreasonable. – Dan Dec 13 '16 at 0:04
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    Plus one for using overwhelming three times. – Mazura Dec 13 '16 at 0:22
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    I remain underwhelmed. :) – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Dec 13 '16 at 0:23
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    Removing my downvote because I agree that overpowering is the best word. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Dec 13 '16 at 3:24

Anosmizing, from anosmia, a medical term for loss of sense of smell, is perhaps analogous in strict meaning to deafening, but is hardly a common word. A more specific adjective like nauseating (a smell so bad it makes one feel sick) or cloying (an otherwise sweet or pleasant smell that is overwhelming) is probably the closest match, depending on the nature of the smell.

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