An "odor" is a smell. It’s usually a bad smell:

  • A strange odor is coming from the refrigerator.
  • He has really bad body odor.*
  • Do you smell that odor? Is that gas?
  • What’s that odor?
  • There’s a terrible odor coming from the bathroom.
  • Those flowers have an unusual odor coming from them.
  • The odor from the paint will go away in a few days.

When the word "smell" is used as a noun, it’s very similar to the word "odor."

  • What’s that smell?
  • A strange smell is coming from the refrigerator.
  • Something smells. (The sentence uses "smell" as a verb.)

The word "fragrance" is also used as a noun, but it almost always represents a good smell:

  • That’s a very nice fragrance she’s wearing.
  • Where’s that fragrance coming from?
  • Those flowers are very fragrant. (The word "fragrant" is an adjective.)

* Note: B.O. is a common abbreviation for body odor:

He has very bad B.O.

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The page was first published on February 12, 2012. It was amended on January 16, 2015.