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[reek] /rik/
a strong, unpleasant smell.
vapor or steam.
verb (used without object)
to smell strongly and unpleasantly.
to be strongly pervaded with something unpleasant or offensive.
to give off steam, smoke, etc.
to be wet with sweat, blood, etc.
verb (used with object)
to give off; emit; exude.
to expose to or treat with smoke.
Origin of reek
before 900; (noun) Middle English rek(e), Old English rēc smoke; cognate with German rauch, Dutch rook, Old Norse reykr; (v.) Middle English reken to smoke, steam, Old English rēocan
Related forms
reeker, noun
reekingly, adverb
reeky, adjective
5. steam, smoke, fume. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for reek
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Their great heads swooped about, as high as the yards that held the sails, and the reek from them gave one physical sickness.

    The Lost Continent C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne
  • The reek of spirits, the greasy rancid steam of food got Razumov by the throat.

    Under Western Eyes Joseph Conrad
  • He was still plastered with patches of dried mud and slime, the reek of it thick in his nostrils.

    The Time Traders Andre Norton
  • The air, which should have been clean, was filled with the reek of unfamiliar odors.

    The Whispering Spheres Russell Robert Winterbotham
  • Faint with the reek of ancient mustiness, Northwood retreated to the door, dizzy and staggering.

  • Here we are all just ready to drop down, and the critters all in a reek of sweat.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • It is in the names of Liberty and Brotherhood that the prisons will reek, and the headsman be glutted.

    Zanoni Edward Bulwer Lytton
  • Macauley's cigars were of a strong brand; the air was blue with their reek.

    Red Pepper Burns Grace S. Richmond
British Dictionary definitions for reek


(intransitive) to give off or emit a strong unpleasant odour; smell or stink
(intransitive) often foll by of. to be permeated (by); be redolent (of): the letter reeks of subservience
(transitive) to treat with smoke; fumigate
(transitive) (mainly dialect) to give off or emit (smoke, fumes, vapour, etc)
a strong offensive smell; stink
(mainly dialect) smoke or steam; vapour
Derived Forms
reeking, adjective
reekingly, adverb
reeky, adjective
Word Origin
Old English rēocan; related to Old Frisian riāka to smoke, Old High German rouhhan, Old Norse rjūka to smoke, steam
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 reek

Old English rec (Anglian), riec (West Saxon), "smoke from burning material," probably from a Scandinavian source, cf. Old Norse reykr, Danish rǿg, Swedish rök "smoke, steam," from Proto-Germanic *raukiz (cf. Old Frisian rek, Middle Dutch rooc, Old High German rouh, German Rauch "smoke, steam"), from PIE *reug- "to vomit, belch;" also "smoke, cloud." Sense of "stench" is attested 1650s, via the notion of "that which rises" (cf. reek (v.)).


Old English recan (Anglian), reocan (West Saxon) "emit smoke," from Proto-Germanic *reukanan (cf. Old Frisian reka "smoke," Middle Dutch roken, Dutch rieken "to smoke," Old High German riohhan "to smoke, steam," German rauchen "to smoke," riechen "to smell").

Originally a strong verb, with past tense reac, past participle gereocen, but occasionally showing weak conjugation in Old English. Meaning "to emit smoke;" meaning "to emit a bad smell" is recorded from 1710 via sense "be heated and perspiring" (early 15c.). Related: Reeked; reeking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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