This question asks how to say "sounds like" in German. How would one say "smells like" in German?


"It smells like" is translated to "Es riecht nach".

If you want to emphasize that it is a good fragrance, you can use the verb "duften", too. Or if you want to emphesize that is stinks, you can use "stinken".

The verb "riechen" is neutral and can be used in both cases.


Es riecht/duftet nach Rosen.

Es riecht/duftet nach Weihnachten.

Es riecht/stinkt nach alten Socken.

  • 3
    Es riecht nach dem Geist Halbstarker. – Carsten S Nov 27 '16 at 17:39
  • I love finding words that sound like a six-year-old trying to fake a knowledge of German: "stinken", for example. – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Nov 27 '16 at 20:05

Indeed smells like and sounds like (and looks like) all exist in German language as well and have the same two meanings each. One is the pure physical thing (affecting nose, ears, eyes). The other (figurative) meaning is a bit diffucult to explain for me but some examples might help:

I bumped into Radio Shack's display window.

  • Das riecht nach Ärger! – That smells like trouble.
  • Das klingt nach Ärger! – That sounds like trouble.

The journey to the moon was all made up!

  • Das klingt nach Verschwörung! – That sounds like a conspiracy.

The sailors don't do what they're told.

  • Das riecht nach Meuterei! – That smells like mutiny.

Conclusion: in English and German it's pretty much the same.

  • That's nice, thank you for the alternative perspective! – Skeleton Bow Nov 27 '16 at 20:39
  • Would there ever be a reflexive use? (Just asking, as I just saw another thread asking how to say something sounds like something else, and your answer had "Es hört sich nach X an.") – BruceWayne Nov 28 '16 at 4:33
  • 1
    @BruceWayne For "riechen"? No. Only "sich anhören" is used reflexive. The others ("klingen", "riechen") are not. "Anhören" can also mean "listen to" in which case it's not used reflexive: "Ich höre ein Konzert an". – PerlDuck Nov 28 '16 at 12:47

Usually you'd say something like

Es riecht nach etwas

where etwas is the something it smells like, e.g. ranzige Butter. alternatively (if the smell has a good adjective)

Es riecht etwassig

where etwassig is the corresponding adjective, e.g. ranzig


Es duftet/riecht/stinkt nach

are some possibilities to express this


The equivalent German verb is riechen (nach). It even "sounds like" (and I believe is the root word of) reeks, the less common English synonym of "smells."

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