Something Smells: From "Malodorous" to "Mephitic" to "It Reeks!"

This list of words to describe something foul in the air runs the gamut from the downright genteel malodorous to mephitic, appropriate to describe a evil witch's brew. For more smelly-word etymologies see linguist and Blog contributor Adam Cooper's Something Smells: With summer temps peaking, we're bringing in the "funk."

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. reek
    give off smoke, fumes, warm vapour, steam, etc.
    The place reeked of dust and mildew—a big contrast to the pleasant smells outside.The Maze Runner
  2. fetid
    offensively malodorous
    At a disposal site on the outskirts, the journalists discovered a fetid encampment, where scavengers raked through garbage for items to sell.The New Yorker (Jul 20, 2015)
  3. mephitic
    of noxious stench from atmospheric pollution
    A close mephitic stench, impeding respiration, arose from the saline exhalations of the stagnant lake.William Cornwallis Harris
  4. stench
    a distinctive odor that is offensively unpleasant
    The air was thick with the familiar smell of diesel, bread, and kebab mixed with the stench from the nearby stream, where everyone dumped trash.Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World
  5. miasma
    unhealthy vapors rising from the ground or other sources
    French also believed that disease was caused by “ miasma,” the unhealthy vapors that rose from swampy places.Washington Post (Jul 15, 2015)
  6. pungent
    strong and sharp to the sense of taste
    But in practice it was a failure, producing odors so pungent that disgusted patients stopped taking it.Time (Jul 9, 2015)
  7. malodorous
    having an unpleasant smell
    The so-called "fire country" around Naples is dotted with malodorous dumps and illegal burn-offs that regularly send plumes of black smoke into the sky.Reuters (Dec 2, 2014)
  8. acrid
    strong and sharp, as a taste or smell
    Then, somehow, he was up, and Manny was forcing the acrid smelling salts under his nose, forcing him back to reality.145th Street: Short Stories
  9. noxious
    injurious to physical or mental health
    Noxious fumes generated by the malfunction enveloped a six-car train that had stopped in the tunnel, sickening more than 80 riders, one of whom died.Washington Post (Jun 15, 2015)
  10. putrid
    in an advanced state of decomposition and having a foul odor
    The smell was overpowering: sweet and putrid, overlaid with the sharp sting of disinfectant.The New Yorker (Apr 3, 2015)

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