I'm sure there's a word for it. Example sentence:

The air was still __ with the smell of dead animals.

But I'm not a native English speaker, so I'm not sure.

  • 8
    Mᴏᴅᴇʀᴀᴛᴏʀ Nᴏᴛᴇ: Answers go in the Your Answer box, not in comments.
    – tchrist
    Dec 25, 2016 at 0:19
  • 2
    Note, @alex, that once you have one word that has the approximate meaning, you can use the thesaurus to find more and explore subtle shades of meaning.
    – JDługosz
    Dec 28, 2016 at 6:39
  • 1
    "fart" was my initial thought on reading the title, but seems the OP has a different context in mind ;) Dec 28, 2016 at 18:23
  • 1
    "To fill the air with a bad smell" does not mean the same thing as "to describe air that has been filled with a bad smell". Your question title and example are inconsistent. I've suggested two possible answers based on the former. Dec 28, 2016 at 23:02
  • pungent is another one that fits the intended context. Dec 29, 2016 at 6:25

19 Answers 19


"The air was still rank with the smell of dead animals." Rank in this case meaning an offensive smell or taste, especially one associated with decay.

  • It's not; it does not describe the air being "full" of the smell. Dec 27, 2016 at 18:58
  • 3
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - It fits the example sentence in the OP perfectly. The heading question and the actual question posed are two different things. It also fits just as well as the accepted answer
    – Taegost
    Dec 27, 2016 at 19:46
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit The air being "full" of anything is an ill-posed idea to begin with.
    – jpmc26
    Dec 27, 2016 at 20:07
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    -1 From the question: Word that means "to fill", that is, the OP is seeking a verb, not an adjective. "Reeked" or "reeking" would have been preferable if we are to be precise.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:40
  • 1
    @ArcaneEngineer, as Taegost points out, the OP's question in the title is different from the expanded version in the body (verb vs. adjective). Dec 28, 2016 at 10:52

Although this word does not fit exactly into your sentence, I'd like to suggest using the word reek to hint at the same meaning.

The air reeked of dead animals

According to Oxford Dictionary, reek means

Smell strongly and unpleasantly; stink

  • 3
    It does fit exactly: reeking.
    – Insane
    Dec 25, 2016 at 6:09
  • @Insane But that's a pretty clumsy way to say it. The way the answer does it is nicer-sounding.
    – anon
    Dec 26, 2016 at 14:34
  • 1
    @QPaysTaxes I don't think it's clumsy. It's just another way.
    – Insane
    Dec 26, 2016 at 14:35
  • An alternative to this would be pungent: google.fi/…
    – flith
    Dec 27, 2016 at 17:38
  • @flith Incorrect. See my comments on pungent, below. It is a an adjective, not a verb; and it by no means connotes only a bad smell.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:41

The air was still foul with the smell of dead animals.


1 offensive to the senses, esp. through having a disgusting smell or taste or being unpleasantly soiled : a foul odor | his foul breath.
3 containing or charged with noxious matter; polluted : foul, swampy water.

New Oxford American Dictionary

Here are a few usage examples from Google Books:

Even though we were at least ten miles out in the muddy Loire estuary, the air was still foul with the stench of burning oil from the docks in St Nazaire.

Here, the heat was contained within a cavernous building, where the air was foul with the smell of coal smoke and machine oil and unwashed bodies.

The air was foul with their stench, although there seemed to be plenty of ventilation of a kind and the tunnel was dry.

Our artillery must have killed Japanese there earlier, because the air was foul with the odor of rotting flesh.

  • OP asking for "to fill the air", so fouled the air would work better (to defile; dishonor; disgrace)
    – JoshDM
    Dec 27, 2016 at 16:54
  • @Clare Pungent can mean a good or a bad smell; as a term it does not discriminate, so no, that wouldn't answer the question as stated.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:30
  • -1 From the question: Word that means "to fill", that is, the OP is seeking a verb, not an adjective.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:47

"The air was still "heavy" with the smell of dead animals.".

This definition of "heavy" is not exactly intuitive to non-native speakers but is generally idiomatic.

Definition of "heavy" from MWO:

g: oppressive (a heavy odor), (heavy weather), (rule with a heavy hand)

  • 4
    Instantly reminds me of laden. Description: air that is laden with a particular smell, smells very strongly of that thing. Dec 27, 2016 at 16:38
  • Good point @DennisJaheruddin - and I've also heard of "heavily laden" as an expression. Dec 27, 2016 at 16:45
  • 1
    I think this is the answer that fits best in both the posed question and the example sentence
    – Taegost
    Dec 27, 2016 at 19:47

How about "fetid?" (I believe I have seen it spelt "fœtid," as well.)

Definition of fetid : having a heavy offensive smell
fetidly adverb.
fetidness noun.


  • -1 From the question: Word that means "to fill", that is, the OP is seeking a verb, not an adjective.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:39
  • @Arcane Engineer \ I understand what you are saying. Perhaps the English language, rich as it is, is nevertheless not rich enough to satisfy every request for a single word to express every imaginable concept. I feel that it would not be expecting too much of someone to accept an adjective -- perhaps "fetid" even -- and to make of it a construction, such as "The air was made (or rendered) fetid." But that's just lazy me. I also have a suggestion about a disposition for your minus-one. Dec 28, 2016 at 9:02
  • Probably the sanest response I'll see here. As you can see, I -1'ed many people for the same reason. I did this because we live in a world where it is increasingly acceptable to not answer the precise question that was posted, precisely, and unfortunately a lack of precision affects us all. As it is, I ask questions on SE myself, and get equally many responses which do not adhere to the requirements, detracting from those responses that are pertinent.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 9:02
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    @ArcaneEngineer Your claim that you are answering the precise question as asked is false, because you are looking only at the title, and not at the body of the post. At no time did the OP specifically state they were looking for a verb, and your claim that they must be doing so is nothing more than an assumption on your part. The question itself was NOT precise, therefore your precision in interpreting it is meaningless.
    – barbecue
    Dec 28, 2016 at 13:50
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    @ArcaneEngineer the OP DID say he is not a native English speaker. He did NOT say he's looking for a verb. He DID provide an example sentence in which an adjective would be correct. He did NOT provide an example sentence in which a verb would be correct. You ignored all this and focused solely on the title. This is neither helpful nor productive. If you feel the question as posed is unclear, you should request clarification from the OP, not just downvote answers that chose a different interpretation than yours.
    – barbecue
    Dec 28, 2016 at 14:07

Both rancid and putrid come to mind. I like putrid more — starting with a 'p' it has more attack.

The word you choose will be the climax of the sentence.

The air was still putrid with the smell of dead animals.

  • 2
    Technically, 'rancid' applies only to fats which have 'gone bad', or become oxidised. Dec 25, 2016 at 8:53
  • 1
    Not only to that - general staleness and fermentation, too. Dec 25, 2016 at 9:06
  • 1
    Describing other things that have gone bad as "rancid" may be accepted as valid English usage, but it's not valid chemistry for non-fats. "Rancid" has a specific technical meaning which applies only to fats/oils. Fermentation also has a specific meaning, and doesn't overlap with rancidification. You're on the right track with putrid, though. Of course, rancid fats typically smell bad, and saying "the air was rancid with the smell ..." might not even annoy any chemists. (Not sure though), Dec 27, 2016 at 7:44
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    I imagine its original meaning relating to fats has been misused over time so it acquired the more general dictionary definition. But even in chemistry terms, 'rancid' may be used here because dead animals contain fats. Dec 27, 2016 at 14:50
  • @ArcaneEngineer Notice that the OP's question in the title is different from the expanded version in the body (verb vs. adjective). Dec 28, 2016 at 10:48

Consider miasma. From OED:

an unpleasant or unhealthy smell or vapour.

Applied to your example:

The air was still with the miasma of dead animals.

  • 5
    That is not the OED.
    – tchrist
    Dec 25, 2016 at 0:15
  • OED definition: Noxious vapour rising from putrescent organic matter, marshland, etc., which pollutes the atmosphere; a cloud of such vapour.
    – barbecue
    Dec 26, 2016 at 17:45
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    -1 From the question: Word that means "to fill", that is, the OP is seeking a verb, not a noun.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:37


From dictionary.com: sharply affecting the organs of taste or smell, as if by a penetrating power; biting, acrid.

  • 1
    -1 pungent is utterly neutral in terms of the type of smell, that is it can mean a good or a bad smell; so no, that wouldn't answer the question as stated. For example, potpourri (or any spice, flower or fruit) could be described as pungent.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:31
  • It is also an adjective, not a verb.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 9:10
  • @ArcaneEngineer since we're being nit-picky, pungent is NOT utterly neutral. It means a smell that is very strong, overpowering other smells, with the connotation that it is so strong as to be distracting or annoying. E.g. a normally pleasant smell can become unpleasant if it is too strong. Multiple citations for this meaning are trivial to find via a web search.
    – barbecue
    Dec 28, 2016 at 14:12
  • @barbecue Are you still here?! My god man/woman, you must be bored!
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 14:26

To pollute



Verb: pollute; 3rd person present: pollutes; past tense: polluted; past participle: polluted; gerund or present participle: polluting

Contaminate (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances.

  • Simple but effective.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 9:06

You ask

Word that means “to fill the air with a bad smell”?

and the example question here is

The air was still __ with the smell of dead animals.

Another answer has already mentioned that foul fits the sentence, but note that it's actually the adjective form of the word in that case. It means roughly the same thing, but to match your title request, you want a verb. Luckily, there is one; the verb foul means "to make foul", as in:

foul₃ (verb): 1. to make or become foul or filthy

(from Merriam-Webster's definition for students).

So you could also say things like "The smell of dead animals fouled the air", or "Ugh, clean up all of those dead animals before they foul the air."


Although the word foul has been suggested (in both adjective and verb form) I think the slight variant I would choose is befoul:



Verb: Make dirty; pollute:

‘the dangers of letting industry befoul the environment’

Or to change the example sentence slightly:

The air was still befouled by the smell of dead animals.

  • It's a bit intense, but at least it's a verb. I think befoul tends to connote an action taken by human (or sentient) agency; not sure it works so well in the passive voice required by the example sentence.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 9:07
  • "the air was still befouled with the smell of dead animals" - ...seems to work. I think this is the best option, in both meeting the meaning the OP is looking for and for being a verb. Dec 28, 2016 at 21:59

If you are looking for an adjective here are some:

stinky adjective: To emit a strong offensive odor.

Stenchful or stenchy adjective: having an unpleasant smell.

Or frowsy or reeky or funky.

The air was still stinky/stenchful/frwsy/reeky with the smell of dead animals.

But judging by the title, I think you are looking for stink something out.

To fill a place with a very unpleasant smell.

Those onions are stinking the whole house out.[(Longman)]

stink somewhere out/up: Fill somewhere with a strong unpleasant smell. (Oxford Living Dictionary)

‘Fourthly, rats are smelly animals that stink the room out.’

‘Besides which, the fish carcases do not stink your dustbin up for days.’

‘You had a fire in your garden that was stinking my house out.’

‘Okay, so you could buy a mackerel for a £1 these days but who wants to stink the entire house out for a week?’

  • Stench already implies smell, so the best approach is to modify the example sentence into "The air was still filled with the stench of dead animals". Dec 27, 2016 at 7:32
  • In response to the title, rather than the phrase in the question, I would say that "stink out" is a great suggestion.
    – Tom Fenech
    Dec 28, 2016 at 1:21

I've used and often read "ripe" or "overripe" in creative writing styles (along with some of the others mentioned, such as "heavy"):

"The air was ripe with the smell of dead animals."

To me, it seems to emphasize maximum offensiveness and putrefaction.

According to Cambridge Dictionary:

ripe adjective (SMELL)

A ripe smell is strong and unpleasant: There was a ripe smell from his socks.

  • Please cite your source(s). The answer is more useful if there are references. Dec 24, 2016 at 23:04

The odor of dead animals permeated the room.

intransitive verb

:  to diffuse through or penetrate something
transitive verb

:  to spread or diffuse through <a room permeated with tobacco smoke>

:  to pass through the pores or interstices of


  • Great answer. But have you noticed the question in title is kind of different from the body. The title asks for a verb but the body of OP asks for an adjective.
    – Afsane
    Dec 24, 2016 at 23:50
  • @Afsane -- Well, as the dictionary example shows, "permeated" can be used in a adjective sense. "The air was still permeated with the smell of dead animals."
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 25, 2016 at 0:07
  • @Afsane - OP is still asking for a verb - in past participle form, which can be used like an adjective. Dec 29, 2016 at 14:37

Going by the question title -- "to fill the air with a bad smell" -- how about smell up or stink up?


smell up: Also, stink up. Cause a bad odor, as in These onions smell up the whole house, or Your old sneakers are stinking up the closet; throw them out.

You example, reworded to be consistent with the question title:

Decaying dead animals smelled up (or stunk up) the room.


The word saturate works with the additional benefit of having a neutral connotation (can be used for any type of smell).

The air was still saturated with the smell of dead animals.





1.4 Fill (something or someone) with something until no more can be held or absorbed:

‘the air is saturated with the smells of food’

  • Saturate by no means indicates only a bad smell c.f. your own example; therefore, this is not an ideal response when other words in the English Language do have that connotation.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:45
  • @ArcaneEngineer It may not be an ideal response as per you but it is still a valid one. If you cared to actually read it, I did mention at the very start that this word has a neutral connotation. I am not sure what your problem is. Dec 28, 2016 at 11:05

Since the word you are looking for only has to satisfy 1) contains the meaning filled 2) is of non-positive connotation, I believe all of the following will fit in your sentence.

These three mainly provide a objective description of the physical state of being filled.

  • infused: AHD definition 2. To fill or cause to be filled with something.

  • permeated: AHD definition 1. To spread or flow throughout; pervade.

  • saturated: AHD definition 1. To imbue or impregnate thoroughly. 2. To soak, fill or load to capacity.

    The following two has more connotation of being unclean or affected with filth.

  • tainted: AHD definition 2. To affect with decay or putrefaction; spoil.See Synonyms at contaminate. 4. To affect with a tinge of something reprehensible.
  • contaminated: AHD definition 1. To make impure or unclean by contact or mixture.

The air was still __ with the smell of dead animals.


Consider "redolent" (though it doesn't indicate that the smell is necessarily bad).

Though the 'to' in the title suggests that the OP is requesting a verb, the OP's example sentence is satisfied nicely with an adjective. And the OP's not being a native English speaker, I think, affords some leeway in interpreting the specific words in the title.

My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives these meanings:

  1. Having or diffusing a strong or pleasant odour; fragrant, odorous. Now rare.
  2. Of smell, odour, etc.: pleasant, sweet, fragrant. Now rare.
  3. Smelling of or with: full of the scent or smell of. b fig. Strongly suggestive or reminiscent of; impregnated with.

This indicates that the two meanings most associated with pleasant smells are rare. Given the comments below, perhaps these meanings are rare only in some places, and not in others.

In the third entry, including the second half of the fig part, the pervasiveness of the smell is the key idea.

My MacBook’s dictionary gives: 1. Strongly reminiscent or suggestive of (something). literary strongly smelling of something. 2. archaic or literary fragrant or sweet-smelling.

This again indicates that fragrance is a less current meaning.

My Chambers Dictionary app gives:

  1. Fragrant
  2. Smelling (of, or with)
  3. Suggestive (of), imbued (with)

The first meaning suggests pleasant smells. The others do not. The third meaning (second half) highlights the permeating nature of the smell.

The second entry in Mirriam Webster online highlights the strength of the smell, with no indication that the smell is pleasant. The Synonym Discussion gives impregnated as the key idea.

Dictionary.com starts with pleasant as a key idea, but gives odororous or smelling as a meaning. Their example (garlic) may suggest a pleasant smell or unpleasant smell to different people.

Macmillan online gives no hint of pleasantness. Only reminding and pervasiveness.

Though nothing in any of these definitions suggests a bad smell, redolent is almost always followed by a statement whatever odor the air is permeated with. And the OP's example sentence gives the nature of the smell (dead animals), which supplies the unpleasantness.

  • 2
    Redolent implies a floral or perfume-like scent.
    – barbecue
    Dec 26, 2016 at 17:41
  • -1 From the question: Word that means "to fill", that is, the OP is seeking a verb, not an adjective.
    – Engineer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:36
  • 1
    @ArcaneEngineer At no time did the OP actually specify he wanted a verb, and he stated he was not a native English speaker. I think we can be a little less pedantic than this.
    – barbecue
    Dec 28, 2016 at 12:43
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    @ArcaneEngineer One cannot "suggest" a "requirement." That's ridiculous for reasons I've already pointed out and you have utterly ignored. I'm finished with this nonsense.
    – barbecue
    Dec 28, 2016 at 14:13
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    @Barbecue "redolent implies a floral ..." ... some plants do mimic the scent of rotting carcass. There's no accounting for taste.
    – Mitch
    Dec 28, 2016 at 17:12

Consider stifling. From Dictionary.com:

suffocating; oppressively close:

the stifling atmosphere of the cavern.

or Odoriferous (also from Dictionary.com)

yielding or diffusing an odor. or

smell of death billowed into the room

billow :

fill with air and swell outward.

The smell of death billowed through the room

Here's a nice image of billowing smoke that seems to fill the air: billow

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