a strong, very unpleasant smell synonym reek an overpowering stench of rotting fish (figurative) The stench of treachery hung in the air. Word Origin Old English stenc ‘smell’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch stank, German Gestank, also to the verb stink.Extra examples The stench of death hung heavily over the land. I caught the stench of fear from the duke and his men. She became aware of an awful stench. The stench of death and decay hung in the air. The stench of rotting fish filled the hut.