‘Odori spiralici’ and ‘Aeroprofumi’ – the Unique Olfactory Vocabulary of the Futurists

There appears to be a dramatic mismatch between smell and language, at least in most western vocabularies. Most people have a hard time describing scents. But exactly this lack of vocabulary inspired the Futurists to invent their own words to describe their innovative olfactory practices and modernist relation to smell. They tried to bridge the gap between the sensory world and the words that represented this by transforming words into sensory elements themselves.

Scent played an important – yet overlooked role in Futurism – as preluded by the very first manifesto Marinetti wrote exclaiming that “il fiuto, il fiuto basta alle belve!” (“The scent, nothing but the scent. That’s all an animal needs!”, Fondazione e manifesto del futurismo, 1909). Furthermore the Futurists aromatized theatres (Marinetti), dance (Valentine de Saint-Point), cinema (Bruno Munari and Castagnetti) and allegedly possibly also sculptures (Fedele Azari) and toys and ‘oggetti plastici’ (Fortunato Depero).

What follows is a list of neologisms (invented words) referring to olfactory phenomena as found in Futurist, Symbolist and other contemporary texts between ca. 1850 and ca. 1950. These might help scholars and enthusiasts to relate to scent culture and describe and understand their olfactory environment better. This research is part of the PhD-project “In Search of Lost Scents – The Olfactory Dimension of Futurism (1909 – 1942) by Caro Verbeek).


F = Futurist (invented by the Futurists)

C = Contemporary (invented by contemporaries, such as the Symbolists)


aeromet F (aero-dish)

French equivalent for ‘aerovivanda’. Aeromet is probably derived from the French medieval ‘entremet’; a term used to describe a multi-sensory dish. Marinetti, Fillìa (1932), La cucina futurista.


aerovivanda F (aero-food)

A contraction of ‘aero’ (a prefix invented by the Futurists to indicate speed and modernity) and ‘vivanda’ (food). A typical aerovivanda contained scents, tastes, sounds and tactile elements. Marinetti, Fillìa (1932), La cucina futurista.


aeropofumi F (aeroperfumes)

A contraction of ‘aero’ (a prefix invented by the Futurists to indicate speed and modernity) and ‘profumi’ (perfumes). ‘Aeroprofumi’ were typically Italian smells such as lavender from Liguria and bread cooked on car tires. Sanzin (1942), Fiori d’Italia.


accordi di fetori F (stench chords)

Literally ‘chords of stench’. The Futurists wanted to include the other side of the dichotomy ‘fragrant-foul’ in order to heighten a sense of lyricism. The term ‘perfume chord’ was already known. Many scent terms are derived from music. Valentinelli, (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.


allons au parfum C (let’s go to the scent concert)

Literally ‘Let’s go to the perfume’ or to the perfume concert.  Montesquiou (1900), Pays des aromates.


arpeggio (of thyme and lavender, of rosemary, basil, myrtle, tarragon)

Literally a ‘broken chord’ (of thyme and lavender, of rosemary, basil, myrtle, tarragon). An arpeggio consists of a succession of notes rather than a chord played at once. An olfactory arpeggio would consist of rapidly alternating olfactory notes, which – according to Avery Gilbert – human beings aren’t able to perceive (unlike mice). Huxley (1932), Brave New World.


concerto di profumi (perfume concert)

Literally ‘concert of perfumes’.  Valentinelli (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.


conprofumo F (harmonic perfume)

A contraction of ‘con’(with) and ‘profumo’ (perfume). A term used to indicate the affinity of a given perfume with the taste of a certain type of food, such as mashed potatoes and roses. Marinetti, Fillìa (1932), La cucina futurista.


disprofumo F (dis-perfume, contrasting perfume)

A contraction of ‘dis’ (counter/ opposite) and ‘profumo’ (perfume). A term used to indicate the complementary character of a given perfume with the taste of a certain type of food, such as raw meat and jasmin. Marinetti, Fillìa (1932), La cucina futurista.


caldagrodolce F (warmbittersweet)

A contraction of ‘caldo’ (warm), ‘agro’ (sharp/ bitter) and ‘dolce’(sweet). The Futurists invented many of this type of synaesthetic and multi-sensory words. Marinetti (1932), “Ritratto olfattivo di una donna”.


fetori, storia dei F (history of stench)

Literally ‘history of stench’. Valentinelli wanted to include stench in the renarrating of the history of smell, since usually only perfumes are described. Stench would heighten the lyricism because of the intriguing contrast they would render. Valentinelli (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.


forces odorales (odorous forces)

Literally ‘olfactory forces’. The concept was used in in the scented Total Work of Art Cantique des cantiques by Paul-Napoléon Roinard. Roinard (1891), Les miroirs.


frescacido F (freshsour)

A contraction of ‘fresco’ (fresh) and ‘acido’ (acid/ sour). Marinetti, Il tamburo di fuoco, 1922.


homeopathie nasale (nasal therapy)

Olfactory therapy based on the healing power of scent memories. Huysmans (1884), À rebours.


idiome des fluids C (perfume language)

Literally ‘grammar of fluids’ or language of perfumes. Huysmans (1884), À rebours.


lirismo olfattorio F (olfactory lyricism)

Literally ‘olfactory lyricism’. Also see ‘stances aromatiques’ van Piesse. Bron: Valentinelli (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.


litanie odorante C (fragrant prayer)

Fragrant prayers or burnt offerings were a means to communicate to the gods.  Montesquiou (1900), Pays des aromats.


mise en senteur C (scent composition)

Literally a ‘scented composition’ derived from ‘mise-en-scène’; a concept taken from the realm of theatre. It was first used for the scented Total Work of Art ‘Cantique des cantiques’ by Paul-Napoléon Roinard. Roinard (1908), Les miroirs.


modulations (of spice keys into ambergris)

Also see ‘modulazioni olfattive’. Huxley (1932), Brave New World.


modulazioni olfattive F (olfactory modulations)

Literally ‘olfactory modulations. A modulation is a rapid shift from one tone to the next and back again. According to Avery Gilbert the human sense of smell cannot detect such shifts. Sanzin (1942), Fiori d’Italia.


musica di odori F (music of scents)

Music of odours. Valentinelli (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.


narines excédées C (extraordinary nostrils/ sense of smell)

Literally  ‘extraordinary nostrils’, or a keen sense of smell. Huysmans (1884), À rebours.


octave of smells C

Septimus Piesse believed that every musical note corresponded to an odorant.  Piesse (1857), The Art of Perfumery.

Also see ‘smound’.


odorant souvenir C (olfactory memory)

Sensory memory or ‘Proustian memory’ was actually not first described by Proust, but by the ‘Professor of Beauty’.  Montesquiou (1900), Pays des aromates.


odorante orchestration C (fragrant orchestration)

Orchestration of scent.  Huysmans (1884), À rebours.


odorat, hallucinations de l’ C

Fictional character Des Esseintes smelled things that weren’t there. Huysmans (1884), À rebours.


odore, archi mobili di F (moving arches of odour)

Marinetti described ‘moving arhces of odour’ as part of the olfactory aura/ scent trail of a woman. Describing scent in terms of movement is quite rare. Marinetti, (1932), “Ritratto olfattivo di una donna”.


odore azzuro F

Blue odour.  Carrà, 1913/ Azari, “Milano-Montecarlo in direttissimo Pullman”, 1920.


odeur azure F

Blue odour. Montesquiou (1900), Pays des aromates.


odore concavo F

Concave odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odore conico F

Cone-shaped odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odore convesso F

Convex odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odore elissoidali F

Elliptical odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odore giallo F

Yellow odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odore oblungo F

Oblong odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odeur opaline F

Intensely blue odour.  Montesquiou (1900), Pays des aromates.


odore ovoidale F

Oval odour.  Marinetti, (1932), “Ritratto olfattivo di una donna”.


odore rosso F

Red odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”, Marinetti, (1932), “Ritratto olfattivo di una donna”.


odore sferico F

Spherical odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odore spiralico F

Spiral-shaped odour. Carrà, 1913/ Fedele Azari (1920), “Milano-Montecarlo in direttissimo Pullman”, Marinetti (1932), “Ritratto olfattivo di una donna”.


odore tondo F

Circular odour.  Marinetti (1933), “Teatro totale

per masse”, 1933, Marinetti (1932), “Paesaggio di odori del mio cane-lupo”.


odore triangolare

Triangular odour. Carrà (1913), “La pittura”, Azari (1920), “Milano-Montecarlo in direttissimo Pullman”.


odore turchino F

Turquoise odour.  Carrà, “La pittura”, 1913.


odore velutato

Velvety odour. Marinetti (1932), ‘”Ritratto olfattivo di una donna”.

odeur vert C

Green odour. Baudelaire (1857), Correspondences.


odore verde F

Green odour. Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odore violetto

Purple odour.  Carrà (1913), “La pittura”.


odori, monotonia di F (monotony of odours)

Literally ‘monotony of odours’. Valentinelli wanted to replace existing smells attached to places with more appropirate ones in line with activities and functions of public places.  Valentinelli (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.


olfatto-immaginazione F (olfactory imagination/ olfactorisation)

There is no word for ‘olfactory imagination’ in Italian. Marinetti used it in the context of the scent of female skin and how it aroused him (as opposed to perfume).  The English translation could be ‘olfactorisation’ (as opposed to ‘imagination’). Marinetti (1920), Il lusso femminile.


ondate olezzatrici F (fragrant waves)

‘Ondata’ means ‘waves’ and ‘olezzatrice’ means ‘giving of scent. In the 19th and early 20th century smells were thought to travel through the ether as a vibrating electro-magnetic waves. Valentinelli (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.


ondes odorantes C (fragrant waves)

Literally ‘fragrant waves’. In the 19th and early 20th century smells were thought to travel as vibrating electro-magnetic waves. Huysmans (1884), Á rebours.


paesaggio di odori F (scentscape)

Marinetti was the first to use the now popularised term ‘scentscape’ for the spatial and temporal organization of scents. Marinetti (1912), “Manifesto tecnico della letteratura futurista”, Marinetti (1932), “Paesaggio di odori del mio cane-lupo”.


polibibita F (multisensory cocktail)

Contraction of ‘poli’ (plural/ several) and ‘bibita’ (drink). The polibibita is the Italian equivalent for ‘cocktail’. A polibita could even consist of sounds. Marinetti, Fillìa (1932), La cucina futurista.


profumatóio (a tastiera) F (scent organ)

Marinetti described a scent organ in a manifesto. It was supposed to answer to individual tastes and be handled by the audience (odience) at their own table. Marinetti (1933), “Teatro totale per masse”, Battaglia, Dizionario Italiano, 1961.


polifonia di profumi F (polyphony of perfumes)

A ‘polifonia’ di odori’ is a controlled synthesis of different perfumes. Bron: Sanzin (1942), Fiori d’Italia.


ritratto olfattivo F (olfactory portrait)

Marinetti was the first to use this now popularised term ‘olfactory portrait’. He described the dynamic scent trail and exhalations of a woman he found attractive and that he traced by following his nose. Marinetti (1932), “Ritratto olfattivo di una donna”.


sapore-colore-odore F (taste-colour-odour/ flavour)

There is no word for ‘flavour’ in Italian, so the Futurists contracted taste, colour and smell to emphasise the synthesis of these sensory stimuli during culinary activities. Marinetti, Fillìa (1932), La cucina futurista.


scent organ C

Aldous Huxley’s scent organ was able to modulate and switch odours very rapidly. Marinetti probably based his invented word ‘profumatoio a tastiera’ on Huxley’s slightly earlier use of the term. Huxley (1932), Brave New World.


semi-odors C

Semi-odors are half-notes – like the black keys on a piano – and are derived from the ‘octave of odours’ by Septimus Piesse. Piesse (1857), The Art of Perfumery.


sinottico- singustativo F (synoptic-together/syn-gustatory)

When diverse tastes come together to become a new whole. Marinetti, Fillìa (1932), La cucina futurista.



A contraction of sound and smell. Septimus Piesse believed that sounds triggered the olfactory nerve and vice versa. According to more recent scientific insights, he was right. Piesse, The Art of Perfumery, 1857.


stances aromatiques C (aromatic verse/ poetry)

An aromatic wordless type of poetry. Huysmans (1884), Á rebours.


syntax/ grammar of perfume C

Piesse (1857), The Art of Perfumery.


uniodorità F (monodority)

Contraction of ‘unione’ of ‘unità (unity) and ‘odore’ (scent). Valentinelli wanted to break down the dreaded monotony of odours in certain places and argued for a scented narrative in line with the environment. Valentinelli (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.


vaprofumo F (vapodour)

Contraction of ‘vapore’ (vapour’) and profumo’ (perfume) to emphasise the volatility and dynamism of an odorant. Giacomo Balla, Vaprofumo, 1928.

verdeazzurrodorato F (greenish-blueish-scent)

Contraction of ‘verde’ (green), ‘azure’ (blue) and ‘odorato’ (scented). Bruno Sanzin (1942), Fiori d’Italia.














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