Word of the Month: Redolent

David Zapatka

While reading The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong: Table Tennis as a Journey of Self Discovery by Guido Mina di Sospiro, I ran across the word redolent. His use of the word while describing table tennis rubber was intriguing.

Redolent—red·​o·​lent adjective 1. Exuding fragrance: aromatic 2. Full of a specified fragrance: a. scented (air redolent of seaweed) b. evocative, suggestive (a city redolent of antiquity)

Origin and Etymology—Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin redolent-, redolens, present participle of redolere to emit a scent, from re-, red- + olere to smell

First Known Use—15th century

Redolent traces back to the Latin verb olere (“to smell”) and is a relative of olfactory (“of, relating to, or connected with the sense of smell”). In its earliest English uses in the 15th century, redolent simply meant “having an aroma.” Today, it usually applies to a place or thing permeated with odors. Scent and memory are famously linked and an extended use of redolent to mean “evocative” or “suggestive” links them again as in “lollipops redolent of childhood.”

Redolent used in a sentence:

My grandmother’s house always seemed to be redolent with the aroma of baking bread.

Redolent used on the web:

The sun has just set over the tranquil Santa Barbara campus of the University of California, and the crisp evening air is redolent of warm sand and eucalyptus.—Karen Wright, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2019

Their store names are still redolent of the aroma of fine books and manuscripts, of old paper and ink and leather on their vanished shelves: Caravan; Argonaut; Heritage; Aquarian Book Shop, the oldest Black bookstore in town.—Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 2023

The space is meticulously made, visually redolent with pot and sweat, even before the cast members start puffing on herbal cigarettes.—Vulture, 29 Oct. 2023

The long, sumptuous finish is redolent of cacao and cinnamon.—Robb Report Studio, Robb Report, 26 Oct. 2023

At the Steinhart Aquarium, yet to be remodeled, redolent still with salt water leaking onto carpet, our breathing felt religious.—Kathleen Alcott, Harper’s Magazine, 8 Apr. 2022

Taken as a whole, the look was redolent of the time Hailey Beiber wore an LRD (little red dress) with strappy stilettos while promoting her Dunkin’ Donuts collab, accompanied by Justin Bieber in… Crocs.—Daniel Rodgers, Vogue, 26 Sep. 2023

One imagines dancers hopping and gyrating in the low-ceilinged room: humid, hot, packed, redolent of sweat, cigarettes and weed.—Will Hermes, New York Times, 22 Sep. 2023

The conversation on boosting economic growth is redolent of the 1980s, when top-down planning gave way to bottom-up commerce.—Alexander William Salter, National Review, 24 Aug. 2023

What redolent experiences have you had? Would you like to share those with our readers? Please submit your experiences or any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments, to [email protected].