Smelled or Smelt | Meaning, Difference & Examples

Smelt and smelled are two different spellings of the past tense of the verb ‘smell’, used to mean ‘detect the scent of something’ or ’emit an odor’.

The spelling tends to vary based on whether you’re using UK or US English:

  • In UK English, both ‘smelled’ and ‘smelt’ are commonly used.
  • In US English, ‘smelled’ is standard, and ‘smelt’ is generally not accepted.
Examples: Smelt and smelled in a sentence
The lasagne looked delicious but smelt/smelled like it was burned.

The bear cub smelt/smelled the camper’s food and made its way to the campsite.

Andrea smelt/smelled all the candles before she bought one.

Verbs whose simple past and past participles are formed in some way other than by adding the suffix ‘-ed’ are called irregular verbs.

‘Smell’ can be either regular or irregular, with the irregular form more commonly used in UK English. This is also true of ‘spelt/spelled‘, ‘learnt/learned‘, ‘knelt/kneeled‘, and ‘dreamt/dreamed‘.

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Other uses of smelt

Smelt is also used as a noun to refer to a type of small fish and a verb to refer to the act of extracting metal from its ore by melting it.

Examples: Other uses of smelt
Extreme heat is required to smelt iron ore.

When he lived beside the lake, Greg used to fish for smelt.

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If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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Ryan, E. (2023, September 25). Smelled or Smelt | Meaning, Difference & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.