I see images. I touch objects. I taste flavours. I hear sounds.

Is there a collective generic noun, besides 'smells', for what I smell?


Example sentence:

Whenever I smell that ____ I think of France.

closed as off-topic by aparente001, Mitch, NVZ, curiousdannii, Hank Feb 27 '17 at 14:28

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  • 3
    odours and smells. I think this question has been asked before. – Mari-Lou A Feb 24 '17 at 12:26
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  • I did look and couldn't find an answer. 'Odours' certainly fits the bill -the property of a substance that is perceptible by the sense of smell (OED). Interestingly, the OED says that 'early' use was usually for 'a sweet or pleasing scent', whereas now odour frequently describes an unpleasant smell. – Dan Feb 24 '17 at 12:31
  • @Mari-LouA - great answer. Thank you! (no wonder you thought it had been asked before!). – Dan Feb 24 '17 at 12:33
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    Well, you could always smell a stink. Or a rat. – Hot Licks Feb 24 '17 at 13:02

Perhaps scent:


  1. a distinctive odor, especially when agreeable: the scent of roses.
  2. an odor left in passing, by means of which an animal or person may be traced.
  3. a track or trail as or as if indicated by such an odor: The dogs lost the scent and the prisoner escaped.
  4. perfume.
  5. the sense of smell: a remarkably keen scent.
  6. small pieces of paper dropped by the hares in the game of hare and hounds.

Reference: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/scent

  • Scent works well with the example sentence: "Whenever I smell that scent, I think of France." But it might be even nicer to say, "Whenever I notice that scent, I think of France." – aparente001 Feb 26 '17 at 3:13

As mentioned in the comments, you smell smells or odors/odours. If you need a technical term, you smell odorants (which are the actual molecules detected by your olfactory system).

The usual wording is "detect odorants" or "sense odorants", but "smell odorants" is also attested. Odorant has the synonyms aroma-compound and odor/odour compound, but it doesn't seem "smell aroma/odour compounds" is attested.

  • 1
    But most people will interpret "odorant" to mean an artificial substance, used to intentionally add an odor to something. – Hot Licks Feb 24 '17 at 13:03

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