Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 9, 2019 is:

olfactory • ahl-FAK-tuh-ree  • adjective

: of or relating to the sense of smell


“The glands located between the cat’s toes secrete a scent whenever he scratches on objects such as a tree or a scratching post. This activity provides an olfactory territory mark in addition to the visual.” — Pam Johnson-Bennett, Think Like a Cat, 2011

“Young male anglerfish face the challenge of finding a mate in the ocean’s vastness. They have large olfactory organs, which suggests that suitors follow a trail of pheromones.” — William J. Broad, The New York Times, 29 July 2019

Did you know?

Olfactory derives from the past participle of the Latin olfacere (“to smell”), which was formed from the verb olēre (“to give off a smell”) and facere (“to do”). Olfactory is a word that often appears in scientific contexts (as in “olfactory nerves,” the nerves that pass from the nose to the brain and contain the receptors that make smelling possible), but it has occasionally branched out into less specialized contexts. The pleasant smell of spring flowers, for example, might be considered an “olfactory delight.” A related word, olfaction, is a noun referring to the sense of smell or the act or process of smelling.


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