Smelled vs. Smelt

Tomee Cseh

The difference of Smelled Vs Smelt is mostly about where you’re from. In American English, we usually say “smelled,” while in British English, “smelt” is common. Both are okay, and you can pick based on your style or who you’re talking to.

These two words often confuse people because they’re used differently in different types of English. This article will help you understand the difference between “smelled” and “smelt” and how to use them right in your writing.

What is Smelled and Smelt?

Let’s start by understanding the core meanings of these words:

Smelled: This is what you get when you’ve sniffed something. Like, “I smelled the coffee brewing.”

Smelt: Apart from being a way to extract metal, in British English, “smelt” is also used as the past tense for “smell.”

What are the Geographic Variations?

English isn’t the same everywhere, and where you are affects how you use these words.

American English:

  • In the U.S., we mostly say “smelled” for catching a whiff of something.
  • Example: “He smelled the barbecue from next door.”

British English:

  • In the UK, people use both “smelled” and “smelt” for sniffing out scents, but “smelt” is more common.
  • Example: “She smelt the sea breeze.”

What is the Difference Between “Smelled Vs Smelt” in English?

In American English, “smelled” is standard, while in British English, both “smelled” and “smelt” are used, with “smelt” being more common. The choice often depends on personal style, but both are accepted as past tense forms of the verb “smell.”

Quick Tip: In the U.S., it’s “smelled” with the ED for smelling things. In the UK, it’s “smelt” with a T. Remember ED for the U.S. and T for the UK to nail the difference.

How to Use Smelled and Smelt in Sentences?

Both smelled and smelt are forms of the verb smell, which means to perceive or emit an odor or aroma. Smell can be used as a transitive verb, which takes an object, or an intransitive verb, which does not.

For Example:

  • She smelled the roses. (transitive)
  • The roses smelled nice. (intransitive)

Smelled and smelt can be used as the past tense or the past participle of smell. The past tense is used to describe an action that happened in the past, while the past participle is used to form perfect tenses, such as the present perfect or the past perfect.

For Example:

  • He smelled/smelt something burning. (past tense)
  • She has smelled/smelt the perfume before. (present perfect)
  • They had smelled/smelt the gas leak earlier. (past perfect)

What are the other Meanings of Smelt?

Before we conclude, we should mention that smelt has other meanings that are unrelated to smelling. Smelt can also be:

  • A noun that refers to a type of small, silvery fish that is often eaten as food.
  • A verb that means to melt or fuse ores in order to extract metal.

These meanings of smelt are the same in all varieties of English, and they have different forms for the past tense and past participle.

For Example:

  • He caught some smelts in the lake. (noun)
  • She smelted the iron ore in the furnace. (verb, past tense)
  • He has smelted gold and silver for years. (verb, present perfect)


In summary, the difference between smelled vs smelt hinges on regional variations in English usage. In American English, “smelled” is the customary past tense for sensing odors, whereas in British English, both “smelled” and “smelt” are valid, with “smelt” being more prevalent.