In Russian, one can use the verb слышать ([ˈslɨʂətʲ], "hear") with both sounds and smells, though it's more common to use чувствовать ([ˈt͡ɕustvəvətʲ], "feel") for smells. Example from Wiktionary:

Я слы́шу како́й-то стра́нный за́пах.
Ja slýšu kakój-to stránnyj zápax.
I smell something strange.

In English, you can describe a smell as loud (definition #7), but to my knowledge you can't say you "smelled a sound".

How common is the correlation between smells and hearing cross-linguistically?

  • Are you positive that's definitely the verb "to hear" used metaphorically? In Italian, the verb "sentire" is used about hearing sounds, and it is also used for smells. However, it's also used for pain, vibrations, sometimes temperature, needs... so it's basically also "feel".
    – LjL
    Jun 7, 2017 at 21:36
  • In Japanese there's an expression "to listen to a scent" (kaori wo kiku); but, it's a somewhat fancy, poetical expression used especially in the context of traditional incense appreciation (Kōdō), and describing attentive, careful evaluation. Other than that special usage, in normal speech I don't think it's usual to emply verbs of hearing for scents. Jun 7, 2017 at 21:37
  • @LjL Yeah, it means "to hear" foremost, and sometimes "to smell", but it's never used for feeling. Also the related noun слух only means hearing (or rumor) but never smell or sensation.
    – Dmiters
    Jun 7, 2017 at 21:40
  • The reverse has happened in Mandarin. The classical word for "to hear" is 闻, which today means "to smell" only, unless in formal contexts and words. Thought this was a unique thing to Mandarin. Also, it turns out that some eastern Mandarin dialects use the word 听 to mean "to smell", which means "to hear" in most other Mandarin dialects. Jun 22, 2017 at 16:00
  • Dialectal Greek (but not Standard Greek) has "hearing smells", γροικώ τη μυρωδιά (slang.gr/definition/12835-akouo). This was picked up by comedians in Australia in the 80s, who thought it hilarity to repeat "you can hear the smell". Jul 9, 2018 at 15:03


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