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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, from Proto-Indo-European *rowgi-.

See also West Frisian reek, riik, Dutch rook, Low German Röök, German Rauch, Danish røg, Norwegian Bokmål røyk; also 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 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merry Wiues of Windsor”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, (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, Arthur Conan Doyle, “(please specify the page)”, in The Poison Belt [], London; New York, N.Y.: Hodder and Stoughton, →OCLC:
      The blue reeks of smoke from the cottages gave the whole widespread landscape an air of settled order and homely comfort.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English reken (to smoke), from Old English rēocan, from Proto-West Germanic *reukan, from Proto-Germanic *reukaną, from Proto-Indo-European *rougi-. See above.

Related to Dutch ruiken, Low German rüken, German riechen, Danish ryge, Swedish ryka.


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.
    • 1660, Henry More, An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness, page 236:
      [] innumerable Legions of his Angels of Light, the warm gleames of whose presence is able to make the Mountains to reek and smoak, and to awake that fiery principle that lies dormient in the Earth into a devouring flame.
  5. (transitive, rare) To cause (something) to smell. [from 19th c.]
    • 1880, Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur:
      The slaughter of lambs in offering reeked the fore-courts of the Temple.
    • 2017, Benjamin Myers, The Gallows Pole, Bloomsbury, published 2019, page 43:
      [I]f we get caught we're for the gibbet and the chains. Our flesh will reek the wind.
Derived terms[edit]

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, [1]
  • 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. Compare Swedish rök.


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