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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English rek, reke (smoke), from Old English rēc, rīec, from Proto-West Germanic *rauki, from Proto-Germanic *raukiz (compare West Frisian reek, riik, Dutch rook, Low German Röök, German Rauch, Danish røg, Norwegian Bokmål røyk), from Proto-Indo-European *rowgi- (compare Lithuanian rū̃kti (to smoke), rū̃kas (smoke, fog), Albanian regj (to tan)).[1]


reek (countable and uncountable, plural reeks)

  1. A strong unpleasant smell.
  2. (Scotland) Vapour; steam; smoke; fume.
    • c. 1597, William Shakespeare, “The Merry VViues of VVindsor”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, (please specify the act number in uppercase Roman numerals, and the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals):
      Thou mightst as well say, I loue to walke by the
      Counter-gate, which is as hatefull to me, as the reeke of
      a Lime-kill.
    • 1768, Alexander Ross (poet), "Helenore; or, the fortunate Shepherdess": a Poem in the Broad Scoth Dialect
      Now, by this time, the sun begins to leam,
      And lit the hill-heads with his morning beam;
      And birds, and beasts, and folk to be a-steer,
      And clouds o’ reek frae lum heads to appear.
    • 1913, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Poison Belt[1]:
      The blue reeks of smoke from the cottages gave the whole widespread landscape an air of settled order and homely comfort.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English reken (to smoke), from Old English rēocan, from Proto-Germanic *reukaną (compare Dutch ruiken, Low German rüken, German riechen, Danish ryge, Swedish ryka), from Proto-Indo-European *rougi-. See above.


reek (third-person singular simple present reeks, present participle reeking, simple past and past participle reeked)

  1. (intransitive) To have or give off a strong, unpleasant smell.
    You reek of perfume.
    Your fridge reeks of egg.
  2. (intransitive, figuratively) To be evidently associated with something unpleasant.
    The boss appointing his nephew as a director reeks of nepotism.
  3. (archaic, intransitive) To be emitted or exhaled, emanate, as of vapour or perfume.
  4. (archaic, intransitive) To emit smoke or vapour; to steam.

Etymology 3[edit]

Probably a transferred use (after Irish cruach (stack (of corn), pile, mountain, hill)) of a variant of rick, with which it is cognate.


reek (plural reeks)

  1. (Ireland) A hill; a mountain.


  • A Dictionary of North East Dialect, Bill Griffiths, 2005, Northumbria University Press, →ISBN
  • Northumberland Words, English Dialect Society, R. Oliver Heslop, 1893–4
  • A List of words and phrases in everyday use by the natives of Hetton-le-Hole in the County of Durham, F.M.T.Palgrave, English Dialect Society vol.74, 1896, [2]
  • Frank Graham (1987) The New Geordie Dictionary, →ISBN
  • Notes:
  1. ^ Vladimir Orel, A Handbook of Germanic Etymology, s.vv. “*raukiz”, “*reukanan”(Leiden: Brill, 2003), 299:303.




From Middle English rek, reke (smoke), from Old English rēc, rīec, from Proto-West Germanic *rauki, from Proto-Germanic *raukiz.


reek (plural reeks)

  1. Vapour; steam; smoke; fume
  2. A morning mist rising out of the ground.
  3. The act of smoking a pipe or cigarette, a whiff, puff.


reek (third-person singular simple present reeks, present participle reekin, simple past reekt, past participle reekt)

  1. Of a chimney: to emit smoke, to fail to emit smoke properly, sending it back into the room.
  2. To smoke a pipe etc. To emit vapour or steam.
  3. To show anger or fury, to fume, pour out one's spleen.

West Frisian[edit]


From Old Frisian rēk, from Proto-West Germanic *rauki, from Proto-Germanic *raukiz.



reek c (no plural)

  1. smoke

Alternative forms[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • reek”, in Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal (in Dutch), 2011