smell a rat

smell a rat


  • sense that something is not right
  • suspect trickery or deception
  • realize that something is not as supposed to be
  • suspect that something wrong is happening


  1. When he made that offer, I smelt a rat. It sounded too good to be true.
  2. His wife smelt a rat when he suddenly started working late for the past few weeks.
  3. I don’t think these files were deleted by mistake. I smell a rat. Maybe he has something to do with it.
  4. The minute I walked in for the scheduled interview, I smelt a rat. Sure enough, it was a phoney company and intended to rip me off.
  5. He smelt a rat when his wife said she didn’t want to go on a vacation with him.
  6. The investment scheme looked a good one, but I smelt a rat when the adviser could not answer a few of my questions satisfactorily.
  7. I smelt a rat when I found some items missing from my desk.

The origin of the phrase is not clear, however, it is believed that it refers to the smell of a dead rat, which is horrible and indicates that something is out of place.

S 7 Thoughts

7 Thoughts

Smelt a rat OR Smelled a rat?
Smell has both an irregular and regular form. You can use both and both are correct. Brits use smelled and smelt interchangeably, but speakers in North America rarely use smelt.

But which is the most used one? Let´s look at Google Ngram Viewer tool which displays a graph showing how phrases have occurred in a corpus of books over the years.

Let´s look at the current online media:

New project to find out what Europe smelt like from 16-20th century – [BBC]

Yaoumbaev told CNN he smelt something extremely unpleasant –[CNN]

- David January 10, 2021

Thanks for really this website, has improved on my understanding especially in English speaking.

- Lucky Stuart Smith October 9, 2018

I got this answer from only your site and this gave me a satisfaction.

- Vishakha Sharma April 10, 2018

Wow I got the answer I have searched 10-20 websites then I got my answer on this

- Sanjeet Tak April 6, 2018

Finally i got the answer

- Anonymous February 25, 2018

Thanks for helping me in my home work

- Krishna February 7, 2018

This website really helps me in my homework😘

- Amy June 30, 2017

Add your thoughts

Idiom of the Day

put your foot in it

Meaning: say something (by mistake) that upsets, humiliates, or embarrasses someone

Example: Carla put her foot right in it when she congratulated her neighbour on being pregnant. It turns out she's not expecting but had just put on weight. Read on


Like Facebook Page

Latest Thoughts

Keep in Touch

Copyrights © 2021 - The Idioms - All Rights Reserved.
Copy Link