Fragrance vs Scent

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There are various terminologies in the world of fragrance that gives a lot of room for debate and further evaluation. There are certain words that their differences can never be concrete and their distinguishing factors are so minor that they are practically synonyms. An example of such words are those of the fragrance and scent.

Fragrance and scent are very closely related in their use in English and even in the fragrance world. A lot of mix up arises from the usage of these words even from famous and experienced performers. The main difference between the two depends on the usage in a sentence. Fragrance is used more for the ingredients or mix of materials that gives out a pleasing smell while scent is a distinctive smell of a particular thing whether decent or not that is generally considered unique to the owner.

What is Fragrance?

empty fragrance bottle

Fragrance refers to an object or material either natural, plant or animal, or synthetic, aromatic compounds, that gives off a sweet and pleasant smell. This can be a plant, flower, a mix of herbs and spices or a chemical compound that elicits a nice and satisfying odour.

What is Scent?

Scent is a distinctive smell of a particular object or living things, either plant or animal, that is specifically associated with the bearer. Scent can either be nice or terrible or somewhere in between. For example, the scent of an horse or the scent of ammonia is known and unique. If you blind fold an avid flower lover and put a flower under their nose, they can identify the flower by its distinctive scent.

The scent of a particular person is quite different from the scent of another one. Each person has their own unique and distinctive scent. That is why If you come across a clothing material of a person who has been in close proximity with you, you can identify the owner based on their personal scent.

Most of the time you can not define or explain what a particular scent is until you actually get the scent and perceive it. If we are to talk about the scent of rose, you can say it is a sweet, charming and rich smell that relaxes and enrapture people. But the fact is that there are also some other flowers that smell sweet, rich and charming but smell completely different from that of rose. But the moment you are used to the smell of rose, you can recall what the scent of rose is even if it is a rose flavored candy.

Scent being unique is therefore used to trace and identify individuals. That is why you can smell a shirt and say "this is Tonya's shirt". The same application is used by hounds or tracking dogs, they are familiarised with the scent of a particular animal or person, it could be a piece of clothing that belongs to the person and has his or her scent on it and the dog is then allowed to find and trace the trail of the scent of that person or animal.

Difference between Fragrance and Scent

The distinction between fragrance and scent is that fragrance is referring to a scent producing material and scent is that smell that is produced by an object. The flower of an hibiscus plant can be referred to as a fragrance since it elicits a beautiful smell that is welcoming to the senses. Scent is that particular smell that is given off by the hibiscus flower.

Fragrance can be a combination of various plant materials, flowers, herbs, fruits and chemical compounds which gives off a pleasing scent when perceived. Fragrance can be gotten from a bouquet of flowers to give a charming and fascinating smell. Scent is now that smell elicited by a particular flower or mixture.

If there is a blend of ginger, orange and musk, that blend is called a fragrance since it gives off a pleasant smell. The blend of these three materials gives off a unique smell altogether, this is the scent of the fragrance. If another person at another time blended the same materials together, you can easily say this is the scent of ginger, orange and musk blended together. That scent is personal to that particular fragrance the same way that the scent of apple is particular to apple.

Since fragrance is usually a mixture of various materials, these means that the fragrance while having its own special scent accord, each of the constituent of the fragrance also have their own unique scent. That is, when you have a fragrance consisting of different types of flowers and fruits, you can still identify some of its constituents by picking out their own unique scent from the overall scent accord of the fragrance.

Fragrance scent can be described as tropical, oriental, spicy, aquatic and so on. Two fragrances can be categorised together as a Floral Fruity fragrance but have totally different scent. This is due to the different composition of each fragrance. This has lead to the analysing of fragrance by their notes. The notes of a fragrance are the constituent scent that are in the overall composition of the fragrance.

These notes are categorised into three;

Top notes or Opening notes
Middle notes or Heart notes
Base notes

Difference between Fragrance and Scent (Table)



1. Fragrances are the raw materials used in making perfumes and colognes.

Scent is the sweet and pleasant smell gotten when perfumes or colognes are applied.

2. Fragrances are used to give pleasant and beautiful smell to the wearer.

Scent can refer to both pleasant and unpleasant smell but most often used for pleasant scent.

3. Fragrance is used by humans as a personal care product.

Scent refers to smell and can belong to human, plant or even animal.

4. Fragrances are mostly a combination of various plant materials and organic chemical compounds.

Scents are the smell of either a single entity like jasmine or the smell of a group of things such as the scent of a bouquet of flowers.

5. Fragrances are visible and physical as they are formulated by people.

Scent is invisible as it works with the sense of smell and can only be perceived.

6. Fragrances have various top notes, middle notes and base notes.

Scents refer to both the individual notes of the components perceived in a fragrance as well as the overall smell of the fragrance.

7. Fragrances produce pleasant and amazing scents.

Scents can be elicited by fragrance or fragrance infused materials.


Fragrance and scents are usually used interchangeably as they are both relating to a sweet and amazing smell. The only difference is that scent is that smell produced by a fragrance. Though scent can also refer to a foul or bad smell but it is mostly used for nice and sweet smell. Knowing the difference between them would enable proper use of these terminologies in their right context.


Is fragrance the same thing as scent?

Fragrance is not the same thing as scent as they have different uses and context. Fragrance is something that gives out a good and enticing scent accord using a combination of various materials. Scent is the unique smell that is given off by something or someone.

Is scent the same thing as perfume?

Scent is different from perfume as perfume is a type of fragrance that contains a high concentration of fragrance oil and alcohol and gives out a pleasant scent. Scent is the unique smell of a certain perfume or fragrance or plant.

What is meant by top notes of a fragrance?

Top notes of a fragrance refer to the scent that is perceived immediately after the application of a fragrance. They are also known as the opening notes as they are the notes that precedes the heart note and the base note. The top notes are usually flowery and sweet to give a very remarkable opening and it is the first impression that would be perceived by people.

The top notes are more inviting and attractive before it give way to the heart note or middle note which is the main body of the fragrance and these lasts longer than the top note. The base notes then takes over and this is the scent that stays with the wearer till the fragrance fades away.

Does scent always mean a good smell?

Scent does not always mean a good smell, sometimes it could be used to express a foul or bad odor. Scent however is largely used for a good or pleasant smell. Stench, odor, stink or reek are more suited for bad smell.

Can a scent be replicated in a fragrance?

Scents can be replicated in fragrances by combining different components, natural and synthetic until the desired scent is achieved. Flowery of fruity scent can be replicated using their essential would in the composition of the fragrance. Scent such as the scent of the forest, beach or a particular place can be replicated by using materials that are found in those areas thereby creating evoking the memory of the place.


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