Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Senses: Smell

A scene from The Simpsons, one of my favorite shows. Moe is looking at a picture a child drew of him and he says, "Aw, you got the stink lines and everything!" 

Hi, and welcome to Word Wednesday! Today we're going to continue our series about the five senses. Over the last two weeks we've talked about sight and sound, and today we'll learn more vocabulary related to the sense of smell. We'll look at some common ways to talk about smell, and then review 20 vocabulary words!

First of all, what organ do we use for this scent? That's right, we obviously use our noses. But do you know what the two holes in your nose are called? They're called nostrils. When we're healthy and everything is normal, we can use our nose to breathe (to move air in and out of our body) and to smell

However, when we're sick, especially with a cold or the flu, then our noses sometimes get congested. If you're suffering from nasal congestion, you can also (more informally) say that you have a "stuffed nose" or that your nose is "stuffed up." In other words, the mucus (informally: snot) is blocking the air from entering your nose. But when we aren't sick, how can we talk about our nose and what it does?

The word smell can be either a verb or a noun. For example, as a verb I can say: 

"The pizza smells excellent

and as a noun I can say: 

"The pizza has an excellent smell." 

In this picture, we can say "The girl is smelling the flowers" or "The flowers smell good." (Image)

As a verb, smell is a little "special," because it can be used to describe the thing or person that causes the smell, or it can be used for the person that receives or perceives the smell. For example, if I walk into a kitchen where someone is cooking garlic, we can say:

"Ryan smells garlic. The garlic smells good!" 
(I am receiving the smell; the garlic is causing the smell)

However, if I stay in that kitchen for a long time, my clothes may absorb the smell. Then when I go into the living room later, people may say:

"Ryan smells like garlic. He smells bad." 
(I am transmitting the smell of the garlic, and I'm also causing the smell)

If I absorb a lot of the garlic smell, then I exercise for two hours and sweat a lot, and then I step in dog poop, I'll have to deal with a lot of bad smells. In that case, you can use the verb stink:

"Ryan really stinks. He should take a shower!"

"Stink" is usually a verb; a common noun that is similar is stench:

"There is a pig farm near my house. The stench is awful, especially on hot days."

Apparently this child stinks, because the man at the table is reacting negatively to the stench! (Image)

So we know how to talk about unpleasant smells, but what about good smells? Well, a good smell can also be called a scent or even a fragrance. We can use these words when describing perfumes and colognes. However, if someone wears too much perfume or cologne, we can say that the scent is overpowering or suffocating. Sometimes the smell can even make your eyes water, which is like crying, but not emotional.

So, let's go through the words. Can you explain what each of them means and give an example of how to use them?


1. nose
2. nostrils
3. a stuffed nose
4. mucus
5. snot
6. smell
7. scent
8. stench
9. a cold
10. the flu
11. perfume
12. cologne

13. to smell
14. to breathe
15. to stink
16. to be sick
17. to be congested
18. to overpower
19. to suffocate
20. to wear

Can you define and explain those words? If not, try to read through the post again and see if you can find the answers. Then, you can read my suggested definitions below.

There's a fruit in Asia called the "Durian." I've never smelled it personally, but apparently it's horrible. It stinks so bad that it's prohibited in many hotels and on public transportation. This is a sign from a transit station in Singapore. (Image)

Suggested Definitions For The Vocabulary Words:

1. nose - the organ humans and animals use for their sense of smell
2. nostrils - the two holes at the base of your nose
3. a stuffed nose - when your nose is filled with mucus
4. mucus - the gel-like substance in your nose
5. snot - a slang word to describe nasal mucus
6. smell - an odor that you can perceive with your nose
7. scent - a synonym for "smell" and "odor"
8. stench - a bad smell
9. a cold - a common illness; also called "the common cold"
10. the flu - an illness similar to a cold; an abbreviation for "influenza"
11. perfume - a special liquid that a woman uses to give her body a scent
12. cologne - a special liquid that a man uses to give his body a scent

13. to smell - to perceive a scent or odor with your nose
14. to breathe - to move air in and out of your body; to respirate
15. to stink - to emit a bad smell
16. to be sick - to suffer from an illness
17. to be congested - to not be able to breathe because of nasal congestion
18. to overpower - to conquer or be stronger than someone or something
19. to suffocate - to make it impossible for someone to breathe
20. to wear - to have clothing, accessories, or perfume on your body

Well, I think that's definitely enough vocabulary for today! I hope you enjoyed it and/or learned something. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave me a comment below. Thanks for reading, and have a great night!


  1. Hi Ryan.

    As always exellent your web, it´s really amazing for practice english. I passed all sitzman´s web direction to my sister; she too practice english.

    And great I see that your have followed my advice and have showed many vocabulary, I very grateful because I think it´s great for know many word.

    See ya..... johnsen

  2. Hi Johnsen,

    Thanks for the comment! I'm glad to hear that you like the site, and that you've told other people about it.

    If you ever have any questions or suggestions for a post, please tell me--I'd be happy to hear any ideas!

    Take care,


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