Definition of musk in US English:



  • 1A strong-smelling reddish-brown substance which is secreted by the male musk deer for scent-marking and is an important ingredient in perfumery.

    • ‘The preference for this specific cologne may have something to do with one particular ingredient: musk.’
    • ‘Even the lightest, most flowery perfumes contain a trace of musk.’
    • ‘This updated version has less musk an provides more emphasis on the fruit-based top notes.’
    • ‘In the sixteenth century, for example, pungent animal scents such as musk and civet were very popular.’
    • ‘In China, these deer are now bred in captivity so that their musk can be harvested.’
    1. 1.1 A secretion similar to musk from another animal.
      ‘civets habitually deposit tiny amounts of musk’
  • 2A relative of the monkey flower that was formerly cultivated for its musky perfume, which has been lost in the development of modern varieties.

    Genus Mimulus, family Scrophulariaceae: several species, in particular M. moschatusf

    • ‘With two-thirds of an acre to tend, I stopped growing high-maintenance hybrid teas and turned to rugosas and hybrid musks - they're much easier and very satisfying alternatives.’


Late Middle English: from late Latin muscus, from Persian mušk, perhaps from Sanskrit muṣka ‘scrotum’ (because of the similarity in shape of the sac on the abdomen of a male musk deer in which musk is produced).