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[oh-der] /ˈoʊ dər/
the property of a substance that activates the sense of smell:
to have an unpleasant odor.
a sensation perceived by the sense of smell; scent.
an agreeable scent; fragrance.
a disagreeable smell.
a quality or property characteristic or suggestive of something:
An odor of suspicion surrounded his testimony.
in bad odor with the whole community.
Archaic. something that has a pleasant scent.
Also, especially British, odour.
Origin of odor
1250-1300; Middle English < Old French < Latin
Related forms
odorful, adjective
odorless, adjective
3. aroma, redolence, perfume. Odor, smell, scent, stench all refer to sensations perceived through the nose by the olfactory nerves. Odor and smell in literal contexts are often interchangeable. Figuratively, odor also usually occurs in positive contexts: the odor of sanctity. Smell is the most general and neutral of these two terms, deriving connotation generally from the context in which it is used: the tempting smell of fresh-baked bread; the rank smell of rotting vegetation. In figurative contexts smell may be either positive or negative: the sweet smell of success; a strong smell of duplicity pervading the affair. Scent refers either to delicate and pleasing aromas or to faint, barely perceptible smells: the scent of lilacs on the soft spring breeze; deer alarmed by the scent of man. Stench is strongly negative, referring both literally and figuratively to what is foul, sickening, or repulsive: the stench of rotting flesh; steeped in the stench of iniquity and treason. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for odor
  • Breath odor is the scent of the air you breathe out of your mouth.
  • The devices pumped constant streams of air into their noses so a gust of odor would not wake them.
  • Above all there is the musty odor of decaying paper.
  • Foliage emits a strong wintergreen odor when bruised, turns reddish with winter cold.
  • Wash foods in it, then rinse them with plain water to get rid of any chlorine odor.
  • Many residents first thought the odor was from a broken septic system.
  • My dogs are specially bred for incontinence, copious shedding, and body odor.
  • The tallest native cottonwood, with open crown of erect branches and sticky, resinous buds with balsam odor.
  • In late summer or early fall, bears tight clusters of dark purple-red flowers with odor of cedar and camphor.
  • The solitary, nodding flower with an unpleasant odor rises on a stalk above a whorl of three broadly ovate, diamond-shaped leaves.
British Dictionary definitions for odor


the US spelling of odour
Derived Forms
odorless, adjective


the property of a substance that gives it a characteristic scent or smell
a pervasive quality about something: an odour of dishonesty
repute or regard (in the phrases in good odour, in bad odour)
Derived Forms
odourless, (US) odorless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French odur, from Latin odor; related to Latin olēre to smell, Greek ōzein
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for odor

c.1300, from Anglo-French odour, from Old French odor "smell, perfume, fragrance" (12c., Modern French odeur) and directly from Latin odor "a smell, a scent" (pleasant or disagreeable), from PIE *od- "to smell" (cf. Latin olere "emit a smell, to smell of," with Sabine -l- for -d-; Greek ozein "to smell;" Armenian hotim "I smell;" Lithuanian uodziu "to smell").

Good or bad odor, in reference to repute, estimation, is from 1835. Odor of sanctity (1756) is from French odeur de sainteté (17c.) "sweet or balsamic scent said to be exhaled by the bodies of eminent saints at death or upon disinterment."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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odor in Medicine

odor o·dor (ō'dər)

  1. The property or quality of a thing that affects, stimulates, or is perceived by the sense of smell.

  2. A sensation, stimulation, or perception of the sense of smell.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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