A lot vs. Alot: 9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[smel] /smɛl/
verb (used with object), smelled or smelt, smelling.
to perceive the odor or scent of through the nose by means of the olfactory nerves; inhale the odor of:
I smell something burning.
to test by the sense of smell:
She smelled the meat to see if it was fresh.
to perceive, detect, or discover by shrewdness or sagacity:
The detective smelled foul play.
verb (used without object), smelled or smelt, smelling.
to perceive something by its odor or scent.
to search or investigate (followed by around or about).
to give off or have an odor or scent:
Do the yellow roses smell?
to give out an offensive odor; stink.
to have a particular odor (followed by of):
My hands smell of fish.
to have a trace or suggestion (followed by of).
Informal. to be of inferior quality; stink:
The play is good, but the direction smells.
Informal. to have the appearance or a suggestion of guilt or corruption:
They may be honest, but the whole situation smells.
the sense of smell; faculty of smelling.
the quality of a thing that is or may be smelled; odor; scent.
a trace or suggestion.
an act or instance of smelling.
a pervading appearance, character, quality, or influence:
the smell of money.
Verb phrases
smell out, to look for or detect as if by smelling; search out:
to smell out enemy spies.
smell up, to fill with an offensive odor; stink up:
The garbage smelled up the yard.
smell a rat. rat (def 6).
early Middle English
1125-75; early Middle English smell, smull (noun), smellen, smullen (v.) < ?
Related forms
smellable, adjective
smell-less, adjective
outsmell, verb (used with object), outsmelled or outsmelt, outsmelling.
unsmelled, adjective
unsmelling, adjective
13. See odor. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for smells
  • Or from a fancy nursery that smells of cloves and money.
  • It's warm and steamy inside, and smells of sweet, fresh milk.
  • We imitate smells, making all smells to breathe out of other mixtures than those that give them.
  • Anyone who has ever smelled a durian fruit can tell you that it smells mighty strong.
  • It not only feels different in terms of climate-it also smells, sounds and feels different in ways that you can't define.
  • It was a beautiful, quiet place with wild flowers and exciting smells and strange noises.
  • Plus they're eating out of packages, and convection doesn't work the same, so smells don't rise up.
  • The air smells good because the boat smelled so bad.
  • The smells and sounds of the neighborhood were different.
  • Next night, acrid burning smells in the middle of the night.
British Dictionary definitions for smells


verb smells, smelling, smelt, smelled
(transitive) to perceive the scent or odour of (a substance) by means of the olfactory nerves
(copula) to have a specified smell; appear to the sense of smell to be: the beaches smell of seaweed, some tobacco smells very sweet
(intransitive) often foll by of. to emit an odour (of): the park smells of flowers
(intransitive) to emit an unpleasant odour; stink
(transitive) often foll by out. to detect through shrewdness or instinct
(intransitive) to have or use the sense of smell; sniff
(intransitive) foll by of. to give indications (of): he smells of money
(intransitive; foll by around, about, etc) to search, investigate, or pry
(copula) to be or seem to be untrustworthy or corrupt
smell a rat, to detect something suspicious
that sense (olfaction) by which scents or odours are perceived related adjective olfactory
anything detected by the sense of smell; odour; scent
a trace or indication
the act or an instance of smelling
Derived Forms
smeller, noun
Word Origin
C12: of uncertain origin; compare Middle Dutch smölen to scorch
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 smells



late 12c., "emit or perceive an odor," not found in Old English, perhaps cognate with Middle Dutch smolen, Low German smelen "to smolder" (see smolder). However, OED says "no doubt of Old English origin, but not recorded, and not represented in any of the cognate languages." Related: Smelled or smelt; smelling.

Smelling salts (1840), used to revive the woozy, typically were a scented preparation of carbonate of ammonia. Smell-feast (n.) "one who finds and frequents good tables, one who scents out where free food is to be had" is from 1510s ("very common" c.1540-1700, OED). Smell-smock "licentious man" was in use c.1550-c.1900. To smell a rat "be suspicious" is from 1540s.


"odor, aroma, stench," late 12c.; "faculty of perceiving by the nose," c.1200; see smell (v.). Ousted Old English stenc (see stench) in most senses.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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smells in Medicine

smell (směl)
v. smelled or smelt (smělt), smell·ing, smells
To perceive the scent of something by means of the olfactory nerves. n.
The sense by which odors are perceived; the olfactory sense.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for smells

smear 2


schmear1 (1950s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with smells
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for smells


the detection and identification by sensory organs of airborne chemicals. The concept of smell, as it applies to humans, becomes less distinct when invertebrates and lower vertebrates (fish and amphibians) are considered, because many lower animals detect chemicals in the environment by means of receptors in various locations on the body, and no invertebrate possesses a chemoreceptive structure resembling the vertebrate nasal cavity. For this reason, many authorities prefer to regard smell as distance chemoreception and taste as contact chemoreception.

Learn more about smell with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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