Definition of scent in English:



  • 1A distinctive smell, especially one that is pleasant.

    ‘the scent of freshly cut hay’
    • ‘It's dotted with linden trees that must have provided a pleasant scent when in bloom a few weeks ago.’
    • ‘I could smell him, the distinct scent of him that was a mix of cologne and hair wax and his soap.’
    • ‘This is heavily perfumed with fruit that bursts out of the glass, filling the room with scents of freshly cut apple, pear and peach.’
    • ‘His Tiny Tots dahlias are unique in that they give off a pleasant scent, something dahlias just don't do.’
    • ‘In a small nonstick skillet, toast the cumin at medium heat until it releases its scent, about 20 seconds.’
    • ‘He can smell the spicy scent of her damp, freshly shampooed hair.’
    • ‘The rustle of grain was gone, replaced by the earthy scent of a freshly harvested field.’
    • ‘In return for a donation, visitors had the chance to enjoy the colourful sights and fragrant scents of lovingly tended boarders, and pick up a few tips on garden design.’
    • ‘On a fine day the colours and scent from the lavender and herb beds that extend over 12 acres would make for a pleasant stroll.’
    • ‘It's a land of fishermen and farmers where you can smell fresh cut hay and the scent of the sea in a single step.’
    • ‘Rex woke up to the strong aroma of coffee and smelled the sweet scent of fried bacon and eggs.’
    • ‘Life at the ranch house starts early with the insistent chatter of birds and the scent of freshly ground Kenyan coffee.’
    • ‘Wherever you go in this island city, the French influence is as strong as the scent of freshly baked baguettes.’
    • ‘I like jasmine tea's refreshing scent a lot, which I adore in the form of gelatin dessert, too.’
    • ‘Orange or lemon rinds provide a pleasant scent to the kitchen.’
    • ‘People enjoyed them because of the scents and distinctive flavors.’
    • ‘The green salad bordered on a non-event thanks to the iceberg lettuce, but the orange-tinged dressing had a nice sesame scent to it.’
    • ‘As a fragrance evaporates, you smell scents in three stages, starting with the top notes and ending with the bottom notes.’
    • ‘I could smell the distinct scent of strawberry shampoo on her hair.’
    • ‘Analysis of its volatile components has identified the same molecules that give many familiar objects their distinctive scents.’
    smell, fragrance, aroma, perfume, redolence, savour, odour, whiff
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    1. 1.1mass noun Pleasant-smelling liquid worn on the skin; perfume.
      ‘she sprayed scent over her body’
      • ‘How long before politicians come out with their own clothes line and perfume scent?’
      • ‘The smell of cheap scent and rancid after-shave was all pervading.’
      • ‘Inside was a simple, dark blue, package containing a bottle of scent personally made for me by perfumers in London.’
      • ‘Work has begun with a leading confectionery company on an equally intriguing chocolate perfume scent, but the project is still at an early stage.’
      • ‘It's important to know that every scent or cologne smells different on every person.’
      • ‘Victoria Beckham's favourite designer, Romeo Gigli, also launches his latest concoction, a spicy floral scent, this summer.’
      • ‘She sprayed her neck a bit of citric scent and took a peppermint tablet.’
      • ‘The new men's scent from Comme des Garçons is God's gift to perfume.’
      • ‘Alternatively, just spray your favourite scent around the room (but be sparing).’
      • ‘I wish Mark would wear the scent I bought him for Christmas, Gina thought.’
      • ‘For the final touch, I sprayed my signature scent, Moonlight Path, around the room, and walked through it.’
      • ‘Charlize will appear in adverts starting next month - just when another Academy Awards queen is set to launch her own ads for a rival French scent.’
      • ‘L' Eau D' Issey is the ultimate feminine scent, blending floral fragrances with fresh water.’
      • ‘At the Caron store in Paris, phials of its scent are decanted from impressive fragrance fountains.’
      • ‘I sprayed my favourite scent on my neck, checked my face in the mirror and brushed out my hair, then picked up my bag.’
      • ‘A second scent is already in development, and a cologne for men is planned to follow.’
      perfume, fragrance, toilet water, lavender water, cologne
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  • 2A trail indicated by the characteristic smell of an animal and perceptible to hounds or other animals.

    ‘the hound followed the scent’
    • ‘Then the pack of hounds chases the scent while followed by mounted riders.’
    • ‘In the Amazon, a Waorani hunter detects the scent of animal urine at forty paces and identifies the species that deposited it.’
    • ‘As the hounds picked up their scent, the howls became snarls.’
    • ‘Later this year the NFH intend to experiment with trail hunting, in which a cloth soaked in a fox's urine is dragged across the countryside to give the hounds a scent to follow.’
    • ‘One key characteristic of red herrings, apart from their colour, was their strong smell, so much so that one use for them on occasion was to train hounds to follow a scent.’
    • ‘One possible tactic could involve shooting a fox before the hunt sets out and dragging its corpse round the countryside for hounds to follow the scent.’
    • ‘If a criminal runs away I can't always see where he has gone, but Otto doesn't look for them, he smells their scent and can track them.’
    • ‘Later, two other dogs were run across the suspected site and they too indicated a scent.’
    • ‘Hounds follow the scent of a fox which may be quite some distance away.’
    • ‘Both groups took longer to pass through the tunnel when predator scent was present than when it was absent.’
    • ‘Airizelda walked along smelling the air every so often, searching for the scent of moose.’
    • ‘Quickly the pack of hounds caught a scent, and hurried to the chase, baying so loudly that the rocks and cliffs rang.’
    • ‘Every blade of grass and bush had the scents of other animals that had encountered it.’
    • ‘A fox was caught on Birk Fell, near Tilberthwaite, and a second got away after the pack met a group of walkers and the hounds lost the scent.’
    • ‘It was just 20 minutes into the hunt when the hounds got their first scent.’
    • ‘In a drag hunt, a field master leads a team on horseback, guided by foxhounds on the trail of an animal scent.’
    • ‘Males, running to mark over puppies' bathrooming spots, are hiding the scent of the puppies from the grizzly.’
    • ‘Train your dog to locate objects by following scents on a trail for fun or sport.’
    • ‘Before the runner sets off, he is put in an enclosed space with the hounds that then track his scent.’
    • ‘No arrests were made, but one allegation was made to police that an anti-hunt follower sprayed a hound in the face to put it off the scent.’
    spoor, trail, track
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    1. 2.1 A trail of evidence or other signs assisting someone in a search or investigation.
      ‘once their interest is aroused they follow the scent with sleuth-like pertinacity’
      • ‘It's possible it has been deliberately left there by the worm's author as a red herring to lead investigators off the scent.’
      • ‘His point is laudable, but will likely prove ineffective once US news shows pick up the scent.’
      • ‘Marco, picking up the scent, tries to investigate, following Shaw around the country.’
      • ‘A lack of bullets initially put investigators off the scent of gunpowder.’
  • 3archaic mass noun The faculty or sense of smell.

    ‘the dog, having the help of scent as well as of sight’
    • ‘If scent is the sense physically located closest to memory in the brain, then surely the synapses that channel sound tickle the trigger of imagination.’


  • 1usually be scented withImpart a pleasant scent to.

    ‘a glass of tea scented with a local herb’
    • ‘The sensuous milk bath is scented with fresh rose petals, kaffir lime and stimulating essential oils.’
    • ‘With ingredients such as ginseng and tea these pleasantly scented products do the job very nicely.’
    • ‘The water was just the right temperature and it was scented with lavender perfume and honey-suckle.’
    • ‘It comes with a rice-and-red-bean salad and as well as a green salad scented with spices.’
    • ‘The air was fresh, yet warm for the season of the year and scented with leaves, earth and cool water falling down in glimmering cascades.’
    • ‘Commercial fabric softeners are heavily scented with artificial fragrances that leave irritating residues on fabrics.’
    • ‘Look for products scented with essential plant oils, such as lemon, verbena, or lavender.’
    • ‘She exhaled in a great rush, rippling the water's surface, and reached for the soaps and scented oils her maids had left her.’
    • ‘The café is smart, and the shops sells every item which can conceivably be lavender scented - from soaps and candles to incense burners and perfumes.’
    • ‘Homemade soaps are pleasant and offer therapeutic effects when scented with essential oils.’
    • ‘I sat there on a wooden bench for a mug of special scented tea made from fresh tealeaves.’
    • ‘An eighteenth-century version of this bun was scented with caraway, a habit that seemed to slip away over the next 100 years or so.’
    • ‘They brought soap and scented the bathwater with fragrant oils.’
    • ‘These are the tart, cooling flavours you expect further east, yet a Keralan fish stew may be scented with them all.’
    • ‘She remembered it as a place that was scented with myrrh and strewn with silks.’
    • ‘Laurel's hand was scented with a heavenly mixture of jasmine and roses that William would surely never forget.’
    • ‘Simple and sophisticated, its tight, buttery crumb is scented with kirsch and shot through with soft summer berries.’
    • ‘They are scented with different essences, and may be shaped as fruits or flowers, or simply made in little drop shapes.’
    • ‘An assembly of fresh wild mushrooms was heavily scented with dried ceps, and the cheese had been employed with restraint.’
    • ‘The sauce was not too meaty, but loose and liquidy, scented with fresh herbs and wine.’
    perfumed, fragranced, perfumy
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  • 2Discern by the sense of smell.

    ‘a shark can scent blood from well over half a kilometre away’
    • ‘The urchin got up a second time with the murderous expression of a dog scenting blood.’
    • ‘‘Like a shark scenting a drop of blood in a vast expanse of ocean, he sniffed out my vulnerability the first time he laid eyes on me,’ she writes in her new book.’
    • ‘They have ‘newcomer’ written all over them, and the con-artists and pick-pockets gravitate towards them like jackals scenting carrion.’
    • ‘She was indeed already circling them, like a shark scenting spilled blood.’
    • ‘It was finally lunch period, Mary walks to the line at the Café and later scents a familiar smell.’
    • ‘She was about to begin to feed on the owls kill when she scented the smell of a felida, finally noticing a shadowed form at the back of the cave.’
    • ‘Just as I was trying to scent her on the breeze, I heard her call from the top branches of an oak tree.’
    smell, detect the smell of, pick up the smell of, get a whiff of
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    1. 2.1 Sense the presence, existence, or imminence of.
      ‘the Premier scented victory last night’
      • ‘The words will barely have settled on the page before someone scents a mistake.’
      • ‘When McNicholas was shown a straight red for a high shot on Cruckshank, Leigh scented victory.’
      • ‘Scenting an issue which could have widespread appeal, they have been running a national campaign to make phone company applications go through the full planning process.’
      • ‘Scepticism failed to save her from scenting danger in the ardent courtship of a rich young Philadelphian.’
      • ‘By the end, wickets fell at an alarming rate and it was West who scented an unlikely victory.’
      • ‘Chants and songs echoed around the pub as fans scented victory.’
      • ‘There was no shortage of money, as Penny, scenting change in the air, held yet another fundraiser.’
      • ‘Some of the media drifted closer, scenting information the way sharks smell blood.’
      • ‘It's Patrician's first season in the U - 16 section and midfield stroller Jason is already scenting a Championship triumph at the first attempt.’
      • ‘The Hammers, who had scented victory, had to withdraw their substitute striker in favour of a replacement defender in Neil Ruddock.’
      • ‘Although there have been 12 letters of objection to the plan, the two community councils in the area are scenting opportunity.’
      • ‘And now Hollywood's literary agents are moving in, scenting huge profits from book and film rights.’
      • ‘As Hitler's imminent demise was scented, Stalin rose to new heights of prestige at home and abroad.’
      • ‘The guerilleros, scenting the victories to come, were in no mood to be forgiving.’
      sense, become aware of, become conscious of, detect, discern, perceive, recognize, get wind of, sniff out, nose out
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    2. 2.2 Sniff (the air) for a scent.
      ‘the bull advanced, scenting the breeze at every step’
      • ‘It was Tyrannix, scenting the air and swiveling his head in all directions.’
      • ‘‘Just a sec,’ I said, transforming again into my wolf form and scenting the air.’
      • ‘When we were seated he looked around as if scenting the air, and said, ‘This is very sixties.’’
      • ‘I trudged on, scenting the air every so often to see if anyone was around me and also keeping track of where the border patrollers were.’
      • ‘The other lifted his head as if scenting the air and very briefly closed his eyes.’
      smell, test the smell of, nose at
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  • on the scent

    • In possession of a useful clue in a search or investigation.

      ‘he might be on the scent of something’
      • ‘He claims to offer a service to shield celebrities from the baying media pack on the scent of scandal.’
      • ‘They think that this provides an avenue to destroy her, and they are like hounds on the scent.’
      • ‘But it takes more than that to deter a tabloid hound on the scent of fast-breaking international news.’
      • ‘He is the eco-friendly hound who is on the scent of environmental crime.’
      • ‘As it was, Glavely's attitude showed he knew I was on the scent of something.’
      • ‘While he still enjoyed his work when he was on the scent, he clearly felt much of the joy and challenge of his cases was gone.’
      • ‘For some time now, the unit has been on the scent of something that's been, well, dogging the world of consulting.’
      • ‘They also created a ‘revolving door’ syndrome in the sector, with sought-after staff galloping from one company to the next, on the scent of yet another lucrative pay rise.’
      • ‘Within the French secret service, there were a few outright untrustworthy, such as one lieutenant whose blather on a cafe terrace put the Germans on the scent of these listening officers.’
  • put (or throw) someone off the scent

    • Mislead someone in the course of a search or investigation.

      ‘it was a ploy to put us off the scent’
      • ‘The tale told to Mr Shafi that it was in the post was a deliberate ruse designed to throw him off the scent of that return.’
      • ‘We ‘threw her off the scent’ by planting a series of stories that had nothing to do with our strongest messages, but kept her guessing.’
      • ‘Their understated stance sometimes throws you off the scent.’
      • ‘I'm probably getting paranoid, but are BBC employees trying to throw us off the scent by posting red herrings on these sorts of boards?’
      • ‘It is his job to throw her off the scent by switching on the charm.’
      • ‘That other stuff was just to throw you off the scent while I nicked your MP3 player.’
      • ‘Detectives believe the killer of a Yorkshire teenager sent text messages from her phone to throw them off the scent.’
      • ‘Either Joss is trying to throw us off the scent… or he is in denial.’
      • ‘This was important to Kate; she had to try and throw Emily off the scent.’
      • ‘It is a brilliant way to throw us off the scent, which just reminds us all how vigilant we must be to stopping these evil minds.’


Late Middle English (denoting the sense of smell): from Old French sentir ‘perceive, smell’, from Latin sentire. The addition of -c- (in the 17th century) is unexplained.