Disclaimer: Full credits to Zelda in this Fragrantica forum who had compiled all of the words, phrases, and definitions surrounding the world of perfume. I have made some alterations by separating them into different categories for easier understanding, as well as spell-checking and minor editing of definitions. I have also added my own explanation on perfumery basics for the audience to understand better. This post is mainly for knowledge purposes for people who feel new to the world of perfumery.

The world of perfume is so vast and full of surprises. It can be rather intimidating to look at the words and language used in the perfumery but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it’s actually pretty easy to understand.


Firstly, many people had always been questioning what is”cologne”, what is “EDP”, or even feeling confused by all of the words on the bottle of the perfume. These words are actually describing the level of perfume concentration within the bottle itself. Usually, the higher the concentration, the longer it lasts. However, that would also mean that the price will be higher. Generally, you should pick EDP as it lasts relatively longer than EDT and EDC. They are also placed at a rather affordable price range. Anywhere above EDP can significantly drive the price up.

  • Eau de Cologne (EDC)
    Perfume concentration of approximately 8% to 10%.
  • Eau de Toilette (EDT)
    Perfume concentration of approximately 12% to 15%.
  • Eau de Parfum (EDP)
    Perfume concentration of approximately 16% to 20%.
  • Esprit de Parfum (ESdP) 
    Perfume concentration of approximately 15 to 30%, a seldom used strength concentration
  • Extrait/Extract
    Perfume concentration of above 20%.
  • Pure Parfum
    The highest concentration of oils in a perfume.


You will hear a lot about notes and words that describe notes. When you are interested in certain perfumes, it’s always advisable to check reviews from other people and pay attention to how they describe the notes. There are three levels of notes: Base, Middle (Heart), Top (Head).

When you first spray the perfume, top notes would be easily detectable. However, you shouldn’t buy perfumes based on the top notes. What you should be doing is to spray the perfume on your skin and walk around places for hours. This will help the perfume to set completely, mixing with your skin’s chemistry, and show you the true potential and smell when the perfume is sprayed on you. This is where you should make a decision if the perfume is a “go” or “no-go”.

Every note comes from different ingredients. People will generally describe the notes based on the ingredients and the after-smell. You can read more from the “Types of Notes” tab and the “Phrases Describing Notes” to understand further based on the definition provided.

  • Base Notes. Most enduring notes, heaviest notes longest lasting.
  • Heart/Middle Notes. Notes are separated by the perfumer into Top/Head notes Middle/Heart notes & base As a way to explain the perfumes evolvement to laypeople. Heart notes can take 10-30 minutes to develop.
  • Top Notes/ Head notes First notes of a perfume, most volatile & first to evaporate
  • Alcohol. Denatured ethyl alcohol added to fragrance compound as a carrier. May not have the additives used in Arabian Perfumery May contain vodka, perfumers alcohol & perhaps everclear in some perfume oils
  • Alcohol used in Arabian perfumery Denatured alcohol which has additives of mentholated spirit rendering the alcohol undrinkable denatured alcohol has a particular smell which lasts for a few minutes after spraying.
  • Aldehydes. Organic compound present in many natural materials can be synthesizesd artifically
  • Amber. Sweet resinous,cosy and warm, often rather powdery note recreated from a mix of balsams. Usually labdanum, benzoin,vanilla, styrax and fir or a combination of these. The default oriental note. (Definition from Fragrantica odor profile)
  • Ambergis. . Oxidized fatty compounds secreted by Sperm Whales
  • Ambrette.   Oil obtained from  ambrette seeds taken from Hibiscus. It has a musk like odor, often substituted for true musk.
  • Ambroxan / Ambroxied. Ambroxide widely known by the brand name Ambroxan is a naturally occurring tapenoid and one of the key constituents responsible for the odor of Ambergis
  • Amyris.     White flowering bush/tree native to South America & Haiti. Used as a substitute for Sandalwood 
  • Aoud. The Arabic word for wood in perfume, usually refers to wood from aAgar trees Oud or agar is the resin extracted from agarwood which is the infected heartwood of aquilaria trees.
  • Aroma Chemical Molecules obtained from natural products or made synthetically that have an aroma. Most synthetic aroma chemicals are identical to those found in nature
  • Attar. Essential oil obtained by distillation from botanical sources, e.g roses
  • Balsam/balsamic. Warm ambery soft like benzoin, tolu balsam
  • Bergamot.    Oil from inedible bergamot orange used in perfumery
  • Benzoin.       Balsamic resin from Styrax tree
  • Calone.   Sea breeze/marine aromatic chemical used in perfumery
  • Cashmeran.  Synthetic aldehyde used for floral, amber, spicy, musky odor
  • Castoreum Oily secretion from beavers abdominal sac, usually synthetic now
  • Cetalox/Orcalox. Similar to Ambroxan 
  • Chypre. Fragrance type citrus top note with mossy base (Oakmoss)
  • Cistus. From Greek Kistos is a genus of flowering plants in the rockrose family
  • Civet. Harvested from Civet’s anal gland, no longer practiced now, usually synthetic.
  • Clary Sage.  Sweet/bittersweet oil has nuances of hay , tobacco & amber
  • Concrete. In perfume is a semi-solid mass obtained by solvent extraction of fresh plant material
  • Courmain. Usually derived from Tonka Bean also found in lavender , sweetgrass etc.
  • Fixative The ingredient in a perfume which prolongs the life of the odor improving & fortifying it
  • Fougere. Fern-like, one of the main families into which modern perfumes are classified. They centre on herbacious accords, notes like Oakmoss lavender, courmarin & woods
  • Frangipani  Fragrant tropical flower 
  • Frankincense/Olibanum . Gum resin from trees found East Africa and Arabia. 
  • Galbanum. Gum resin with green plant like smell
  • Guaiac Wood.  From a resinous South American tree, the oil is used in perfumery
  • Hedione  an aroma compound similar to jasmine 
  • Heliotrope  Flower with strong sweet vanilla type scent, undertones of almond
  • Ionone. A series of closely related chemical substances that are part of a group of compounds known as Rose ketones, which also include damascones & damascenones Ionones are aroma compounds found in a variety of essential oils including rose oil -Ionone is a significant contributor to the aroma of roses, despite its relatively low concentration is an important fragrance chemical in perfumery. Combination of Ionones is characteristic of the scent of violets, used with other components in perfumery to recreate their scent
  • Iso E Super Aroma chemical added to fragrances to impart smoothness,fullness & strength
  • Labdanum Sticky brown resin obtained from shrubs Cistus ladanifer & Cistus creticus & species of rock Rose Has a long history of use in herbal medicine & perfume 
  • Monoi.  Gardenia petals macerated in coconut oil
  • Muget. French Lily of the Valley, usually produced synthetically 
  • Musk. Secretion from musk deer, collected during rutting season, very potent & was used in perfume bases to add warmth & eroticism. Nowadays synthetic musks known as nitromusks are used, also vegetal musks from plants
  • Myrrh   Gum resin from bushes found in East Africa and Arabia
  • Narcissus. White flowers from this tree are used in perfumery, particularly French perfumery
  • Neroli. Citrus oil distilled from the sweet or bitter orange tree
  • Oakmoss Resinous substance exuded from lichen, generally found around oak trees 
  • Opopanax/Sweet Myrrh. Resin from a herb grown in The Mediterranean, N. Africa & Middle East. Scent profile similar to balsam or lavender
  • Orris.   Derived from the Iris plant, floral and woody aroma
  • Osmanthus  Flowering tree from China, delicate fruity apricot aroma
  • Oud/Aoud Arabic word for wood in perfume, usually refers to wood from Agar tree Oud or agar is the resin extracted from agarwood which is the infected heartwood of aquilaria trees.
  • Patchouli   Shrub from Malaysia and India, musty sweet spicy, used as a base in perfumery
  • Rose de Mai. Rose essential oil produced by solvent and then alcohol extraction 
  • Santal. French word for sandalwood
  • Tonka Bean. Less expensive alternative to vanilla, derived from a bush grown in Brazil. nuances of cinnamon, clove and almonds.
  • Vanilla.   Derived from seed pods of the vanilla orchid
  • Vetiver.   Grass with fibrous roots from which oil is distilled . Smells of moist earth with woody, earthy, leather, smoky undertones 
  • Ylang Ylang  Oil from fragrant flowers of an Asian evergreen tree.
  • Accord. Blend of two or more notes that form a distinct fragrance
  • Chypre. Fragrance type citrus top note with mossy base (Oakmoss)
  • Citrus. The odor from oranges, lemons, limes bergamot is usually the top notes
  • Concrete. In perfume is a semi-solid mass obtained by solvent extraction of fresh plant material
  • Dry. Dry notes in perfume are usually provided by woods or grasses (Vertiver) & mosses (Oakmoss, tree moss) rhizomes (orris/iris) also leather. It’s the opposite of watery, dewy style perfumes
  • Fantasy Notes  Notes are used by the perfumer to convey an idea of smelling like something. Examples of fantasy notes, dirt, concrete, Autumn mists, etc. 
  • Floral Fragrance type, characteristic of a specific flower or a blend of several
  • Fresh. Invigorating nature-inspired fragrance usually green or citrus notes
  • Gourmand. Fragrances that smell food-related.
  • Green Notes. Green notes are fresh & lively, often used to make a fragrance feel crisp & sharp. Grasses, herbs, green leaves, tea leaves even some marine plants. Mostly found in summer & sporty fragrances.
  • Herbal. The aromatic scent of herbs or even cut grass
  • Hesperide. The citrus fruit group as family. In perfumery, this includes notes of citrus blossoms (e.g lemon, orange, neroli, etc, but not linden AKA ‘lime’, which is not closely related to the lime citrus fruit) and petitgrain (the essence of citrus tree leaves, twigs, and buds), as well as the notes provided by oils extracted from the citrus fruit peels
  • Lactonic. Creamy milky notes, sometimes fruity nuances
  • Marine Accord A scent that is evocative of the smell of the ocean /sea may or may not feature Calone or its related notes
  • Ozonic. Derives from several notes most typically cucumber and/or melon which themselves derive from an aroma chemical called Calone which is synthesized from pheromones of a type of algae. Calone can give off a fishy or oceanic aroma. Overall though its Ozonic accord is more of an effect than a scent — it’s airy fresh & bright. Other notes that lend an ozonic accord, violet leaf, tea, grass, freesia & lotus
  • Powdery/Poudre  Can mean a perfume that is dry or smells of baby powder or has a makeup dusting powder vibe. Notes such as iris can make a perfume powdery.
  • Romantic. A group of perfumes that more often than not have a rose or deeply floral heart.
  • Skin Scent. A fragrance that’s soft & sits close to the skin with little projection Could also mean fragrance resembling the natural scent of skin (my skin but better) amplifies your own skin scent reflecting it back, musks might fit this category
  • Smoky. Smoke in scents is related to incense, birch Oud, vetiver & tobacco notes & possibly other wood & resin notes. Leather perfumes can also have a smoky quality, some Animalics like castoreum can have smoky nuances.
  • Soapy. If a fragrance smells of soap, shampoo, deodorant it can be considered soapy. Fragrances that smell just showered, bathed, or clean generally may be considered soapy
  • Solar Notes. Notes in perfumes that make us think of sun/summer/heat.
  • Sour.  In relation to perfume could mean bitter, tart, sharp, acidic, pungent. 
  • Spicy. Fragrance notes that have a warm or hot character. Describes in the general distinctive fragrance of essential oils obtained from spices. Typical spicy notes, cinnamon, marjoram, coriander, pepper.
  • Synthetic. A substance that’s man-made to duplicate natural scents
  • Urinous. Pertaining to, resembling, or having the odor or qualities of urine. The word is often used to discuss perfumes that contain notes which may smell Urinous in certain combinations.
  • Wet. When used in relation to perfume can mean perfumes with an aquatic smell or watery fruit like melons or rain.
  • Animalic. Aromas are mostly associated with musk civet & castoreum. Now usually reproduced synthetically
  • Aphrodisiac scents Scents reputed to make a person sexually attracted to another person.
  • Aquatics A scent reminiscent of water but not overtly or heavily marine/oceanic. Example rainwater. Aquatics are often Ozonic & typically feature notes of water lily, water hyacinths, lotus, melon, cucumber & water
  • Aromatic. Scents that have a freshness to them, aromatic notes are usually a combination of sage, rosemary, cumin, lavender & other plants that have intensive grassy spiciness, often combined with citrus & spicy notes (as per Fragrantica olfactory groups definition)
  • Bee Bottles. Link to a history Guerlain’s Signature 
  • Boozy A description for a perfume that may smell of various alcoholic drinks like rum, whiskey, vodka, wine, etc.
  • Cloying. The odor that’s overwhelmingly rich, potent or invasive, can be an excess of sweetness, nauseating
  • Complex fragrance Scent that changes over time, from top notes to base notes, nonlinear
  • Earthy perfumes. Perfumes with woody, mossy, leather notes, warm, dry smelling.
  • Fougere. Fern-like, one of the main families into which modern perfumes are classified. They center on herbaceous accords, notes like Oakmoss lavender, coumarin & woods
  • Generic. General, common, in relation to perfume, usually mean the same or similar to lots of other perfumes
  • Guerlainaide. Refers to the base of most Guerlain fragrances which is unique to them.
  • Hairspray. Perfume term used to describe a fragrance that is overwhelmingly suggestive of aerosol & alcoholic chemical smells
  • Heady perfumes. A heady perfume could be described as something that makes your senses spin, intoxicating, strong, most likely associated with florals but not limited to. Dictionary meaning. “Tending to upset the mind or the balance of the senses” seems right.
  • Indolic. Over-ripe, animalic characteristics to perfumes due to chemicals called indoles
  • Jammy. When referenced in perfume usually refers to Rose or fruity scents which smell like jam
  • Legere/Leger. Means light in French, so lighter version of the original fragrance
  • Linear. A perfume that doesn’t develop much from top note to base notes
  • Monotheme. Sometimes used in relation to perfume when referring to single note fragrances like Sandalwood, Patchouli, Tonka, etc.
  • Narcotic. Indoles are often referred to as having a narcotic effect, strong, heady, intoxicating, mesmerizing, addictive. Generally used in reference to white florals
  • Panty Dropper. A controversial term sometimes used to ascertain a scents aphrodisiac performance.
  • Polarizing. In relation to Perfume means a scent can unite or divide.
  • Powerhouse. A perfume that is incredibly strong from the start, longevity & projection. Examples YSL’s Opium, Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant, Creed Aventus
  • Run of mill perfume. Ordinary perfume
  • Sexy perfumes. Perfumes whose notes may be considered Aphrodisiac
  • Signature scent. Fragrance a person wears regularly & becomes associated with them. People may have their own personal Idea of what Signature scent means to them.
  • Skank. Usually refers to a hint or more of body odor in a fragrance, a dirty quality to a fragrance. Anamalics are often referred to as skanky, Jasmine, Indolic scents also.
  • Turned.   A term used to describe when a perfume has gone off or bad. Some indications of this might be the smell of celery, celery salt, pepper, rancid oil, acetone ( provided they aren’t notes  superglad
  • Under the radar. Perfumes that don’t get much notice
  • Vivaldi. A perfume/cologne suited to all seasons
  • Wrist Bender A perfume that smells so good your wrist is bent back from sniffing it
  • Wrist crack. Perfume so good it’s addictive

Types & General Phrases

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the concentration level and fragrance notes, you can explore a bit further with the types of perfumes available out there. Many perfumers would use specific words to describe (or even name) their perfume.

The types of brands matter too. Personally, I would rank the affordability from Celebrity brands, Designer brands to Niche brands (cheapest to most expensive). To give you an insight into how these terms are used, here’s an example: MFK BR540 is from a niche brand where it had created a wave in the perfume world on social media. Many brands tried to make (or had unintentionally made) a dupe out of it, including Burberry Her (designer brand), and Ariana Grande’s Cloud (celebrity brand).

You should also get yourself familiarized with the general terminologies used in the perfume industry so that it would make it a lot easier for you to navigate within the market.

  • Absolute. Strongest aromatic material extracted from flowers & plants. They have concentrated highly aromatic oily mixtures extracted from plants. Absolutes require the use of solvent extraction techniques or more traditionally enfleurage.
  • Acqua Profumata. Scented water 
  • Designer. Perfumes made by houses that sell designer goods/clothes.
  • Discontinued. Perfume no longer in production, may be hard to find & as such may be expensive if found.
  • Dupe. Copy or knockoff version of an original fragrance or original fragrance that bears an uncanny resemblance to another
  • Exclusives / Exclusifs. Refers to special lines from particular houses.
    Some examples of Exclusives   Chanel Cuir de Russie Eau de Parfum Giorgio Armani   Giorgio Armani Armani Prive Encens Satin or Christian Dior Ambre Nuit
  • Indie. Independent usually small perfumers who create market & distribute their own perfumes
  • L’eau. French for water, in perfumery, may refer to EDT
  • Legere/Leger. Means light in French, so lighter version of the original fragrance
  • Niche. Perfumes made by perfumes houses possibly with one perfumer in charge. Selective approach to distribution, seldom advertised but relying on reputation
  • Oud/Aoud Arabic word for wood in perfume usually refers to wood from Agar tree Oud or agar is the resin extracted from agarwood which is the infected heartwood of aquilaria trees.
  • Pour Femme. For Women 
  • Pour Homme.  For Men 
  • Reformulation. Under new regulations, some perfumes may have ingredients considered to be allergenic removed & therefore the perfume is reformulated. There could be other reasons for reformulation such as cost of ingredients or limited supply, extinction or cruelty to animals. 
  • Vintage. The term borrowed from the wine world originally refers to an older perfume that has been discontinued by the manufacturer. People will have their own opinions on what merits the term vintage. It may be discontinued but it may also be the original fragrance name that has been reformulated. Further clarification can be added.
  • Vivaldi. A perfume/cologne suited to all seasons
  • Anosmia. . Medical term for loss of sense of smell
  • Bank of England. This term automatically replaces the words “Old Lady” if it’s typed in any sentence on Fragrantica. In the past, the term has caused a lot of controversy on the site. The Bank of England is also known as The Bank of England of Threadneedle Street, hence the reason Zoka chose it for this automatic correct. Further explanation is on the second post of this thread
  • Batch Codes. Quantity of in this case perfumes produced in a single run. Some perfumes scents may vary depending on the batch code
  • Blind buy. Purchase a perfume without ever having smelled it before.
  • Blend Harmonious mix of perfume ingredients
  • Bulb Atomiser. A device attached to some perfume bottles you squeeze & it dispenses a mist of perfume. Can be responsible for the evaporation of perfume if left attached to the bottle when not in use.
  • Chemistry. The reason why some perfumes work better on some people & not on others, how perfume can react differently on the skin may affect how it smells, good or bad
  • Compound. Completed perfume formula ready to be used in a product
  • Decant. To siphon, discharge, transfer perfume from the original bottle to a decant vial generally 3/5/10/30 ml size. Useful cheaper option to try an expensive fragrance
  • Development. Progress of a fragrance as it changes after initial application revealing different notes
  • Diffusion. How a fragrance radiates around a person and their surrounding space.
  • Dry Down. Final phase of fragrance
  • Duration. The length of time a fragrance lasts from application until it fades completely.
  • Enfleurage. A process that uses odorless fats that are solid at room temperature to capture the fragrant compounds exuded by plants the process can be cold or hot enfleurage
  • Evaporation. Process of changing from liquid to vapor
  • Extraction. Refers to the extraction of aromatic compounds from raw materials using methods of distillation, solvent extraction expression, or enfleurage The results of extracts are either essential oils, absolutes, concretes, or butter, depending on the number of waxes in the extracted compound
  • Factice. Oversize or normal-sized display bottle usually filled with colored liquid
  • Flacon. Nonspray version of perfume bottle
  • Fraghead. A person with an intense interest in perfume & all things related may be very knowledgeable on the subject
  • Fragrance Family. Fragrances constructed in a similar manner with key ingredient combinations
  • Full bottle-worthy. A perfume that’s been tested & considered good enough to purchase a bottle
  • Headspace. Technology developed in the 1980s to extract an aroma from the air for a perfumer to recreate
  • IFRA.   International Fragrance Association. Regulatory body founded in 1973. Its main purpose is to ensure the safety of fragrance materials The IFRA publishes a list of usage standards for fragrance materials, limiting or prohibiting the use of materials based on the findings of The Research Institute of Fragrance Materials, which gathers data regarding the safety of fragrance materials 
  • Longevity. How long the perfumes last from top notes till base notes fade 
  • Nose. Creators of perfumes.
  • Official Sample  Samples provided from Perfume Houses 
  • Olfactory. Relating to the sense of smell
  • Olfactory fatigue Temporary but normal inability to pick up a particular smell after being exposed to it for a long time. Removing exposure for a time will usually result in being able to smell it again.
  • Perfumista. A person who makes (and sells) perfumes. Also can mean a perfume enthusiast
  • Reformulation. Under new regulations, some perfumes may have ingredients considered to be allergenic removed & therefore the perfume is reformulated. There could be other reasons for reformulation such as cost of ingredients or limited supply, extinction, or cruelty to animals. 
  • Residual (in reference to perfume) remaining after the greater part or quantity has gone.  Scents that can last for days or weeks on clothing 
  • Sample. In relation to perfume is a small amount of perfume, sometimes made available by manufacturers so customers can trial the perfume before buying a full Bottle. Not all samples are provided free of charge. There are online outlets that specialize in selling samples of varying sizes.
  • Scent bubble. When a scent projects in a way that surrounds you, makes a bubble around you, unlike a scent trail
  • Sillage. . Trail of scent left behind by a perfume (measured in distance from the wearer)
  • Soliflore. Single flower
  • Splash bottle. Perfume bottle with no atomizer, apply by splashing into your hands.
  • Split. The process whereby a person (splitter) buys a bottle of perfume & offers to sell decants at no profit to other members
  • Tola. The traditional unit used for mass in South Asian countries 1Tola=10g
  • Vintage. The term borrowed from the wine world originally refers to an older perfume that has been discontinued by the manufacturer. People will have their own opinions on what merits the term vintage. It may be discontinued but it may also be the original fragrance name that has been reformulated. Further clarification can be added.
  • Vintager. One who is passionate about vintage perfume

Perfume Prices & Availability

All of the prices are generally determined by the types of brand, level of concentrations, quality of ingredients, number of notes, and popularity. Usually, niche brands are more expensive, with designer brands next, then celebrity brands. The prices are always reviewed and can hike up to 20%-40% from every price lifting phase. It’s good to note that if you can afford that perfume, and you cannot live without it, you should buy it before the year ends. (This had happened to me many times, with a 40% increase at one point. Many heartaches.)

Not all perfumes are available in Malaysia. This depends on the certs of importing perfumes given by authorities and companies. There are currently two importers that I know of: Luxasia (the majority of perfumes you see in M’sia and SG are imported by them), and Bakhache (the main importer of Maison Francis Kurkdjian for M’sia). Many perfumes can be found online from other countries, but many websites do not support shipping perfumes to foreign countries. 

You should also beware of fake perfumes, especially those on Shopee and Lazada. If the price is ridiculously low, you should be wary of it. Many OEM factories are also trying to make dupes for certain brands to resell them as decants or “inspired” scents (imitating with cheap ingredients).  Whenever possible and financially allowed, always purchase perfume from authentic sources. You wouldn’t want to pay hundreds for a bottle of fake.