Understanding the Idiom: "sweet smell of success" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The phrase “sweet smell of success” is a popular idiom that has been used in various contexts over the years. It refers to the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that one experiences after achieving their goals or objectives. The phrase has its roots in ancient times when people would use fragrant oils and perfumes as a symbol of prosperity and success.

Today, the idiom is commonly used in business, sports, politics, and other fields where success is highly valued. It represents the sense of achievement that comes with hard work, determination, and perseverance. The sweet smell of success can be felt by anyone who has accomplished something significant in their life.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “sweet smell of success”

The phrase “sweet smell of success” is a popular idiom used to describe the feeling of achieving great accomplishments. It is often associated with a sense of satisfaction, pride, and fulfillment that comes from attaining one’s goals. The origins of this idiom can be traced back to ancient times when people used fragrant oils and perfumes to mask unpleasant odors.

In medieval Europe, sweet-smelling herbs were commonly used to ward off diseases and illnesses. During the Renaissance period, perfumes became more sophisticated and were used as a symbol of wealth and status among the aristocracy. By the 19th century, perfume-making had become an established industry in France, which was known for its high-quality fragrances.

The idiom “sweet smell of success” gained popularity in the mid-20th century after it was coined by playwright Clifford Odets in his play “Sweet Smell of Success.” The play tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist who uses his influence to manipulate those around him for personal gain. The title refers to the intoxicating allure of fame and fortune that drives many individuals to pursue their dreams at any cost.

Today, the phrase “sweet smell of success” has become a common expression used in various contexts such as business, sports, entertainment, and politics. It represents the idea that achieving one’s goals can bring great rewards but also carries with it certain risks and responsibilities.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “sweet smell of success”

The idiom “sweet smell of success” is a commonly used phrase in English language that refers to the feeling of satisfaction and achievement one experiences after accomplishing something great. This idiom has been used in various contexts, such as business, sports, education, and personal life.

There are several variations of this idiom that are often used interchangeably with the original phrase. Some common variations include “smell of victory”, “taste of success”, “scent of accomplishment”, and “fragrance of achievement”. These variations convey similar meanings to the original phrase but add a touch of creativity to the language.

The usage of this idiom can vary depending on the context in which it is being used. In business settings, it may refer to achieving financial success or reaching a significant milestone in a project. In sports, it may refer to winning a championship or breaking a record. In personal life, it may refer to overcoming obstacles or achieving personal goals.

It is important to note that while this idiom conveys positive emotions associated with success, it should not be interpreted as an endorsement for unethical behavior or ruthless ambition. Success achieved through honest means and hard work is what truly brings about the sweet smell of success.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “sweet smell of success”


Some synonyms for “sweet smell of success” include:

  • Victory scent
  • Triumph aroma
  • Achievement fragrance
  • Accomplishment perfume
  • Fruitful odor


On the other hand, some antonyms for “sweet smell of success” are:

  • Bitter taste of failure/li>
  • Sour aftertaste of defeat/li>
  • Misfortune stench/li>
  • Lackluster aroma/li>
  • Inferior fragrance/li>

Cultural Insights

The phrase “sweet smell of success” has been used in various contexts in popular culture. In movies such as Sweet Smell Of Success (1957), it portrays the darker side of achieving fame and fortune through unethical means. In literature, it often symbolizes greed and corruption associated with power struggles in society.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “sweet smell of success”

In order to fully grasp the meaning and usage of the idiom “sweet smell of success,” it is important to engage in practical exercises that allow for a deeper understanding. These exercises will help you to not only recognize when the idiom is being used, but also how to use it effectively in your own communication.

Exercise 1: Identify Examples

The first exercise involves identifying examples of the idiom “sweet smell of success” in various forms of media such as movies, TV shows, books, and articles. Take note of how it is used in context and what emotions or situations are associated with its usage.

Exercise 2: Create Your Own Sentences

The second exercise involves creating your own sentences using the idiom “sweet smell of success.” This can be done individually or with a partner/group. Try to use different tenses and contexts to gain a better understanding of its versatility.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “sweet smell of success”

When using idioms, it is important to understand their meanings and usage in context. The idiom “sweet smell of success” is often used to describe achieving a desired outcome or feeling accomplished. However, there are common mistakes that people make when using this idiom.

Firstly, some people may use the idiom too broadly without considering its intended meaning. It is important to remember that the phrase refers specifically to achieving success through hard work and determination, rather than simply experiencing positive outcomes.

Another mistake people make is using the idiom in inappropriate situations. For example, it would be incorrect to use this phrase when discussing something negative or unpleasant. Instead, it should only be used when describing a positive achievement or accomplishment.

Finally, some individuals may misuse the idiom by taking credit for someone else’s success or achievement. This goes against the original meaning of the phrase and can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications.

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