Distinguishing Smell, Scent, & Aroma

Smell is a most common and generic term to refer to our perception or sense. As human beings, we have five senses, of which the sense of smell is an important one. This is a sense that is a result of olfactory nerve in our nasal cavity. There are many words that are used for smell such as scent, aroma, odor, fragrance etc. Many people treat these words as synonyms. Despite being similar, there are differences in smell, scent, and aroma that will be highlighted in this article.


Smell is a word that is used both for an odor as well as our sense of smell that results from olfactory receptors located in our brain. Smell is quite neutral as there can be good as well as bad smells. The sense of smell is a chemical sense just like our sense of taste. We have a stronger sense of smell when we are feeling hungry. It is through our smell sense that we can tell the vegetable or meat being cooked in our vicinity. All smells, whether good or bad, are called odors. Whenever there is a chemical dissolved in the air, we perceive it through our sense of smell. Like smells, odors can also be good or bad.


There are unpleasant smells, and there are also pleasant smells. Aroma is a word that is used for pleasant smells. We know about the pleasing smell of rose flower and also about the pleasing smell of coffee when it is being made. Aromatherapy is the science of treating many ailments using different fragrances derived from aromatic plants and flowers. You can sense the aroma of a fragrance when you spray it using a bottle of deodorant or a room freshener. Aroma is the adjective used to talk or describe about pleasing smells of foods and drinks.


Scent is a word used to refer to a pleasing smell or fragrance. It is also used to refer to bottles of fragrances available in the market. However, the word is not always used for pleasing smells as when used for the scent of an animal that it uses to demarcate its territory. Many people use scents to suppress their body odor. People also make use of incense and room fresheners to scent their rooms. To help in removing bad odors from their bathrooms, people spray various kinds of scents.

Key Takeaways

  • Out of the three adjectives used for odors, smell is neutral as it can be used both for pleasing as well as unpleasant smells. Scent is a word that is used for fragrance as well as bottles of scents that are available in the market. It is aroma that is mostly used for pleasing smells such as aroma of food or meat.
  • Smell is also our primary sense.
  • Aroma is used for pleasing odors of aromatic plants, foods, and drinks. Scent is also neutral as it is used for not only fragrances available in the market but also for scent of a man or a woman and scent of an animal that it uses to mark its territory.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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