Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-nahz-mi-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Loss or impairment of the sense of smell, caused by head injury, infection, or ageing. 2. Smell blindness, the lack of olfactory organs, found in some animals.

Notes: Today's Good Word describes a lingering symptom of COVID-19, though other diseases and ageing are also causes. It comes with two adjectives, anosmic and anosmatic. Ageusia refers to the loss of the sense of taste.

In Play: This is not a word to play with since the sense of smell plays a major role in taste. The gustatory cells sense only four or five tastes: sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness (and umami?). The rest of taste is supplied by the olfactory glands. Some people believe that pregnancy is a cure for anosmia. It isn't. Olfactory training, oral steroids, and nasal saline lavage are better treatments for anosmia.

Word History: Today we have another 'garden path' word. This time the spelling ganged up with meaning to lead us astray. We see nos(e) in the word and since the meaning points to smell, we are convinced the two are related. They aren't. This word breaks down into Greek an- "no(t)" + osme "odor, smell" + -ia, a noun suffix. Osme comes from the verb ozein "to smell, emit odor". Greek inherited this word from PIE hed-/hod- "(to) smell". In early Greek osme was odme. Latin dropped the H to arrive at odor, but switched the D for L to derive its verb, olere "to smell of". In Armenian we find it as hot "odor, smell", Latvian ost "to smell", and Lithuanian uosti "to smell, sniff". Swedish os "smell, odor" belongs to this group, too. (An e-bow is due our old friend, Lew Jury, for rescuing this lovely garden path Good Word from the field of medicine.)

Dr. Goodword,

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