1. a strong, unpleasant smell.
  2. vapor or steam.

verb (used without object)

  1. to smell strongly and unpleasantly.
  2. to be strongly pervaded with something unpleasant or offensive.
  3. to give off steam, smoke, etc.
  4. to be wet with sweat, blood, etc.

verb (used with object)

  1. to give off; emit; exude.
  2. to expose to or treat with smoke.


  1. (intr) to give off or emit a strong unpleasant odour; smell or stink
  2. (intr often foll by of) to be permeated (by); be redolent (of)the letter reeks of subservience
  3. (tr) to treat with smoke; fumigate
  4. (tr) mainly dialect to give off or emit (smoke, fumes, vapour, etc)


  1. a strong offensive smell; stink
  2. mainly dialect smoke or steam; vapour

Old English recan (Anglian), reocan (West Saxon) “emit smoke,” from Proto-Germanic *reukanan (cf. Old Frisian reka “smoke,” Middle Dutch roken, Dutch rieken “to smoke,” Old High German riohhan “to smoke, steam,” German rauchen “to smoke,” riechen “to smell”).

Originally a strong verb, with past tense reac, past participle gereocen, but occasionally showing weak conjugation in Old English. Meaning “to emit smoke;” meaning “to emit a bad smell” is recorded from 1710 via sense “be heated and perspiring” (early 15c.). Related: Reeked; reeking.


Old English rec (Anglian), riec (West Saxon), “smoke from burning material,” probably from a Scandinavian source, cf. Old Norse reykr, Danish rǿg, Swedish rök “smoke, steam,” from Proto-Germanic *raukiz (cf. Old Frisian rek, Middle Dutch rooc, Old High German rouh, German Rauch “smoke, steam”), from PIE *reug- “to vomit, belch;” also “smoke, cloud.” Sense of “stench” is attested 1650s, via the notion of “that which rises” (cf. reek (v.)).

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