Concept-taste and concept-smell synesthesia

Alternative names could be conceptual-gustatory and conceptual-olfactory synesthesia

One very uncommon type of synesthesia involves a taste or smell concurrent being triggered by different concepts that form part of a series or sequence.

Two examples of this type with documented cases involve graphemes (letters and numbers) and colours: grapheme-taste, grapheme-smell, colour-to-taste and colour-to-smell synesthesia. There are also cases involving time units, where the concept of each month, day of the week etc. causes a specific taste or smell to be perceived. 

Here is an example of some people who have this subtype for days of the week:

"For me, days of the week have tastes and colors. Mondays (pastel pink), Wednesdays (pastel green), and Fridays (pastel orange), all have a light, sweet taste. Tuesdays and Thursdays (light blue and navy blue) have a heavy, bitter taste on the back of my throat. Saturdays and Sundays (light yellow/off white) have a taste hard to describe as anything but clear. Almost like chicken broth, but without the taste of chicken.

And yeah, it is really weird to have. Sometimes I have to stop myself from swallowing when thinking or talking about days of the week."

(Source: This comment on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2013.)

“Monday: rice. Tuesday: spinach. Wednesday: nails. Thursday: stir fry. Friday: smells/tastes like flower toilet spray. Saturday: caramel chocolate. Sunday: cheap biscuits and tea.”

“Monday tastes like ice cream mixed with chocolate syrup. It’s very vivid. Tuesday has a taste that’s kind of meaty that I can’t identify. The others I don’t really have an automatic association for.”

(Source: These comments on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2020.)

And here is someone who has concept-smell synesthesia with different types of insects:

“There are a few specific insects that I can smell whenever I see one. Each insect has a smell that is unique to that type. For example this one kind of moth has the "moth" smell and I never smell that same scent unless I see that one kind of moth. (…) Note, these are not insects that emit odors.”

(Source: a comment on the Tree page on olfactory-visual synesthesia. 2022.)

This interesting case involves the styles or feelings of the inkflows of a series of different writing instruments:

"I found myself always smelling marzipan when I use a pen I like. I thought maybe the ink just smelt like marzipan but after asking friends and using different pens I've realised it's just me that smells it and it can be different pens but it's specific to how smooth the ink writes on the page."

(Source: This post on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2023.)

Another manifestation of concept-smell is this fascinating case of someone who perceives smells when they read different writing styles:

“So for me it's not every book/piece of writing, and tends to get stronger the longer I read something written in that author's style. Most writing styles don't smell of anything (Textbooks and news articles that relate facts plainly or forum posts are generally neutral). The more affected the style of prose is, the stronger it smells. So far, doesn't seem to happen with audiobooks.

For instance, I can't stand reading anything by Rudyard Kipling for very long because it smells so strongly of rotting orange peels. It gives me a headache. The same with Bram Stoker, I couldn't finish Dracula in part because it smelled exactly like an old bannister that had been covered in too many layers of varnish and gone gummy. On the other hand, books in the Redwall series smell faintly like those pepto-pink grandma candies that turn to powder in your mouth, though the smell is easily overtaken by whatever scent is being described in the scene.”

It’s interesting to note that when this synesthete reads a description of something with a particular smell they also often automatically perceive the corresponding scent physically, as if they were smelling it in real life. This happens to some people – synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike – regularly or occasionally and is not considered synesthesia but a kind of olfactory hyperphantasia called “olfactorisation”. However, in this case it coexists with their concept-smell synesthesia, where the abstract perception of each writing style is the trigger that produces a consistent, characteristic smell, unconnected with the scene the author is describing, and it often exceeds it in intensity, cancelling out the synesthetic smell:

“It also seems like [some synesthetic smells] get overtaken by the suggestion of what's going on in the scene, like the forest smell in LOTR, or the coffee shop at the beginning of Hitchhiker's Guide, or any mentions of food/sea spray/flowers/blood/mustiness/dust.”

(Source: This post and comment on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2023.)

As with other types of synesthesia, the taste or smell concurrents are automatic or involuntary, and they are consistent. In practice, for these types of synesthesia to manifest, some focus or concentration on the stimulus in question would probably be required, or a particular frame of mind (it would occur at times when the synesthete is particularly sensitive, tired, relaxed, etc.).

Lexical-gustatory and lexical-olfactory synesthesia, where words have tastes or smells, could perhaps be included in this group if it is considered that the words triggering them are concepts.

Some types of musical sequence synesthesia with taste or smell concurrents could also fit in with this definition. These would mainly be cases of tastes or smells evoked by musical notes, chords and songs/musical genres.

Another type would be personality-taste/personality-smell synesthesia.


Go to the page on colour-to-taste synesthesia

Go to the page on colour-to-smell synesthesia

Go to the page on grapheme-taste and grapheme-smell synesthesia (letters and numbers)

Go to the page on smelling and tasting images

Go to the page on lexical-gustatory synesthesia (tasting words)

Go to the page on lexical-olfactory synesthesia (smelling words)

Go to the page on personality-taste and personality-smell synesthesia

Go to the page on musical note-taste and chord-taste synesthesia

Go to the page on song/musical genre-taste synesthesia

This page last updated: 06 Septiembre 2023


  1. Just thinking of warm colors (creams, deep yellow…) and or thinking of the words vanilla, chocolate, cookie (those words are the color vanilla and are warm temp (like inside your house in the winter warm) makes me taste and smell chocolate at the same time, and also at the same time seeing a cream/vanilla color in my minds eye.

  2. I had always wondered the term for this (I assumed mine was lexical-olfactory for a bit)-- I experience the exact same thing with writing styles having scents! There are some very memorable ones... like Suzanne Collins is coffee, Anthony Horowitz is roasted garlic, John Flanagan is beef stew, and Jonathan Stroud is a mix of fresh rain and sweet perfume. They likewise can be overtaken by a "scent" from a particular scene described in a book, but for several authors like the ones I mentioned, their characteristic scent can persist throughout most of the writing.

    1. Very interesting, thanks for commenting!