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Alternative forms[edit]


From c.1400, from Middle English sent (noun) and senten (verb), from Old French sentir (to feel, perceive, smell), from Old French sentire "to feel, perceive, sense", from Latin sentīre, present active infinitive of sentiō. Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *sent- (to feel), and thus related to Dutch zin (sense, meaning), German Sinn (sense), Low German Sinn (sense), Luxembourgish Sënn (sense, perception), Saterland Frisian Sin (sense), West Frisian sin (sense). The -c- appeared in the 17th century, possibly by influence of ascent, descent, etc., or by influence of science.



scent (countable and uncountable, plural scents)

  1. A distinctive smell.
    Synonyms: aroma, bouquet, fragrance, nosegay, odor, perfume, redolence, smell
    the scent of flowers / of a skunk
    to give off / release / exude a scent
    to breathe in / inhale a scent
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 8, lines 586-588,[1]
      hunger and thirst at once, / Powerful perswaders, quick’nd at the scent / Of that alluring fruit,
    • 1855, Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Brooklyn, p. 29,[2]
      The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer,
    • 1973, Mary Stewart, The Hollow Hills, New York: William Morrow, Book 3, p. 357,[3]
      Behind me the forest stood wrapped in mist, its scents still sleeping.
    • 2014, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Dust, London: Granta Books, Chapter 32, p. 289,[4]
      The air is thick with the unexpected scent of rain.
  2. A smell left by an animal that may be used for tracing.
    The dogs picked up / caught the scent but then quickly lost it.
  3. The sense of smell.
    Synonym: olfaction
    I believe the bloodhound has the best scent of all dogs.
  4. (chiefly uncountable) A substance (usually liquid) created to provide a pleasant smell.
    Synonyms: aftershave, cologne, eau de toilette, perfume, toilet water
    a scent shop; a scent bazaar
    • 1900, Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, Edinburgh: William Blackwood, Chapter 6, p. 66,[8]
      He was drowned in scent—fairly stunk with it, Captain Marlow.
    • 1924, E. M. Forster, A Passage to India, London: Edward Arnold, Part 2, Chapter 22, p. 197,[9]
      He receives deputations from the bazaar, and they all chew betel nut and smear one another’s hands with scent.
    • 1955, C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, New York: HarperCollins, 2010, Chapter 6,
      He took a clean handkerchief (a lovely one such as you couldn’t buy today) out of the little left-hand drawer and put a few drops of scent on it.
    • 2014, Damon Galgut, Arctic Summer, McClelland & Stewart, Chapter 6, p. 285,[10]
      He went tripping away under a canvas umbrella, trailing the smell of cheap scent.
  5. (figuratively) Any trail or trace that can be followed to find something or someone, such as the paper left behind in a paperchase.
    The minister's off-hand remark put journalists on the scent of a cover-up.
    The tip put the detectives on a false / the wrong scent.
    to pick up a scent / get scent of something
    (discover one of a series of clues in the trail of evidence)
    to throw / put someone off the scent
    (distract them from following the trail of evidence)
  6. (obsolete) Sense, perception.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Although historically the term was applied indifferently to odours of any kind, it is now more often used to refer to pleasant ones (like the terms aroma and fragrance), while odour and smell are more often used for unpleasant ones.

See also[edit]

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


scent (third-person singular simple present scents, present participle scenting, simple past and past participle scented)

  1. (transitive) To detect the scent of; to discern by the sense of smell.
    Synonym: smell
    The hounds scented the fox in the woods.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To inhale in order to detect the scent of (something).
    Synonyms: sniff, smell
  3. (transitive, figuratively) To have a suspicion of; to detect the possibility of (something).
    Synonyms: detect, discern, perceive, sense
    I scented trouble when I saw them running down the hill towards me.
    • 1919, Henry Blake Fuller, Bertram Cope’s Year, Chicago: R.F. Seymour, Chapter 11, p. 105,[17]
      Cope seemed to scent a challenge and accepted it.
    • 1978, Lawrence Durrell, Livia, London: Faber and Faber, Chapter 1, p. 48,[18]
      A mysterious scene to me then—yet I scented that there was something momentous about it, though I could not tell what.
  4. (transitive) To impart an odour to, to cause to have a particular smell.
    Synonym: perfume
    Scent the air with burning sage before you begin your meditation.
    • 1685, John Dryden, “The Epithalamium of Helen and Menelaus” in Sylvæ, or, The Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies, London: Jacob Tonson, p. 105,[19]
      Balm, from a Silver box distill’d around, / Shall all bedew the roots and scent the sacred ground;
    • 1796, John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition, London: J. Johnson & J. Edwards, Volume 2, Chapter 25, p. 235,[20]
      [Vanilla pods] have a fat rich aromatic taste, and most agreeable flavour; on which account they are used to scent the chocolate.
    • 1860 December – 1861 August, Charles Dickens, chapter VII, in Great Expectations [], volume III, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published October 1861, OCLC 3359935, page 103:
      [] the air [] was scented, not disagreeably, by the chips and shavings of the long-shore boat-builders, and mast oar and block makers.
    • 1999, Ahdaf Soueif, The Map of Love, London: Bloomsbury, Chapter 18, p. 300,[21]
      You adorn yourself and scent yourself and sit with him in a comfortable way—
  5. (intransitive, obsolete) To have a smell; (figuratively) to give an impression (of something).
    Synonym: smell
  6. To hunt animals by means of the sense of smell.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.