0

Is there a qualitative difference to what the words stench and reek describe?

Reek seems to be more often used with fumes, while stench I would expect with rotten food or a person putting off his shower for too long. Is the intuition correct?

  • 4
    The ideas are very close, but maybe you want to compare apples to apples. Stench is only a (mass) noun. Stink can be both noun and verb, reek is mostly just a verb but less frequently a noun. Also, 'reek' is cognate with germanic 'rauchen' for to smoke, but that's not necessarily applicable to how people use it nowadays. "That rotten egg stinks","That rotten egg reeks" both work equally well ('reek' is a bit more slangy feeling to me there. – Mitch Jul 10 '19 at 17:08
  • Yes @Mitch I am re-reading the Hobbit, and Tolkien describes the "reek" of Smaug, and he is talking about smoke. – Cascabel Jul 29 '19 at 20:13
2

Stench is a noun and reek is a verb. Both have to do with a strong odor. Reek is simply very strong: He reeked of aftershave. Aftershave isn’t necessarily disgusting. Reek suggests that it is too much of some odor or aroma. A stench is always something disgusting or foul.

  • 1
    Reek is also a noun. – Peter Shor Jul 10 '19 at 17:39
  • @PeterShor - Reek as a noun is not particularly idiomatic in the US. – Hot Licks Jul 11 '19 at 0:29
  • @HotLicks: It's not rare. – Peter Shor Jul 11 '19 at 4:52
  • @PeterShor - I don't think Ngram is particularly good at identifying noun usages. – Hot Licks Jul 11 '19 at 11:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.