American English

Definition of smell verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they smell
    he / she / it smells
    past simple smelled
    (British English also) past simple smelt
    -ing form smelling
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  1. 1[intransitive] to have a particular smell + adj. The room smelled damp. Dinner smells good. a bunch of sweet-smelling flowers smell of something His breath smelled of garlic. The house smelled of cedar wood and fresh polish. smell like something What does the perfume smell like?
  2. 2[transitive, no passive] (not used in the progressive tenses; often with can or could) to notice or recognize a particular smell smell something He said he could smell gas when he entered the room. The dog had smelled a rabbit. I could smell alcohol on his breath. smell something doing something Can you smell something burning? smell (that)… I could smell that something was burning.
  3. 3[transitive] smell something (not usually used in the passive) to put your nose near something and breathe in so that you can discover or identify its smell synonym sniff Smell this and tell me what you think it is. I bent down to smell the flowers.
  4. 4[intransitive] (not used in the progressive tenses; often with can or could) to be able to notice and recognize smells I can't smell because I have a bad cold.
  5. 5[intransitive] (not used in the progressive tenses) to have an unpleasant smell The drains smell. It smells in here. He hadn't washed for days and was beginning to smell.
  6. 6[transitive, no passive] smell something to feel that something exists or is going to happen He smelled danger. I can smell trouble.
  7. Idioms
    come up/out of something smelling like roses/a rose (informal)
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    to still have a good reputation, even though you have been involved in something that might have given people a bad opinion of you Nobody ever knew the details and he came out of the deal smelling like a rose.
    smell a rat (informal)
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    to suspect that something is wrong about a situation
    wake up and smell the coffee (informal)
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    (usually in orders) used to tell someone to become aware of what is really happening in a situation, especially when this is something unpleasant
    Phrasal Verbssmell somebody/somethingout
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: smell