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You are currently viewing Fragrance Dictionary (All the Lingo EXPLAINED)

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So, I’ve already covered fragrances a few times here at Hero and Villain Style.

As a result, taking the benefits of fragrance into consideration, you may now be convinced to give them a try.

But, when looking further into fragrances, you may be bombarded with a bunch of words that you just don’t understand.

Sillage? Base notes?


What do these words mean?


In this article, you will learn just that, as this fragrance dictionary will cover all of the perfume terminology you need to know, so you can jump start your aromatic journey.



Projection is how far a fragrance travels from your skin.

It could project well, and still be smelt within arms length.

In contrast, it could project poorly, and could only be smelt at a short distance of a few centimetres.


Performance / Longevity

Performance, or longevity, is how long the fragrance lasts and projects from your skin.

The performance of a fragrance can typically be anywhere from 30 minutes, to 12+ hours.


Skin Scent

A skin scent is a fragrance that sits on the skin and has poor projection, and can only be smelt when you put your nose right up to the sprayed area.

This term is usually used to describe the state of a fragrance after its longevity has run out, as the projection decreases over time.

For example, ‘this fragrance becomes a skin scent after 6 hours’.


Fragrance DictionarySillage

Often confused with projection, sillage is the scent trail you leave behind when you move.

Projection is measured when a perfume wearer is stationary, whereas sillage is measured when a perfume wearer is mobile.

Therefore, it is true that a fragrance that projects well can have poor sillage, and vice versa.



The opening of a fragrance is how the perfume smells directly after application.


Fragrance dictionary opening.
An opening.


Fragrance Development

Fragrance development is how the fragrance scent changes over time after application.


Linear Fragrance

A linear fragrance is a scent that maintains a constant smell throughout its life, and does not develop.


Dry Down

The dry down of a fragrance is the ‘final phase’ of a scent’s development.

It is when the fragrance has literally ‘dried down’, and is no longer fresh or developing, and is typically the longest stage of development.


Fragrance Dictionary – Note

A note is an aromatic component in a fragrance; an ‘ingredient’.

For example, fragrances may contain the ingredient, or ‘note’, ‘bergamot’.


Base Notes

The base notes of a fragrance are the notes that act as a ‘base’ of the scent.

They have the largest molecules in a perfume formula.

As they are most present, they typically work to boost the longevity of the overall composition, enhance the scent of other ingredients, and sometimes add unique aromatic elements.


Middle Notes (Mid Notes)

Mid notes are the ingredients that build upon the base notes to enhance the scent of the fragrance.

They seek to add interest to the aroma, and usually appear around 20 minutes into the fragrance’s life.


Top Notes

Top notes are the first notes that you smell in the opening of a fragrance.

They have the smallest molecules in the composition, and as a result evaporate fastest, meaning they have a short life.


Note Pyramid

A note pyramid is the complete list of notes that make up a fragrance, sorted into their respective ‘base’, ‘middle’ and ‘heart’ categories.


Note pyramid fagrance dictionary
Image by Karen Gilbert.


Fragrance Dictionary – Dupe / Clone of a Fragrance

A dupe, or clone, is a perfume that bears a large resemblance to a usually well regarded fragrance, usually as an attempt to imitate its scent.



A decant is a low volume of a fragrance that has been transferred into a small container.

Decant containers are typically small atomisers of 1,2,3,5 or 10 ml in size, and allow consumers to try scents without committing to a full bottle.


Blind Buy

A blind buy is when you purchase a fragrance before you have smelt it.


Signature Scent

A signature scent is a fragrance that a person becomes associated with as a result of wearing it regularly.


Signature scent being signed.
A benefit of fragrances is that they can be like a second ‘signature’, which makes you more memorable.


Beast Mode / Powerhouse Fragrance

A fragrance that is ‘best mode’, or a ‘powerhouse’, is considered to have excellent performance and projection, and typically has a ‘strong’ scent.


Fragrance Dictionary – Fixative 

A fixative is a component of a fragrance that improves its performance, such as the base notes.


Niche Fragrance

A niche fragrance is a fragrance that is targeted to appeal to a small audience, usually utilising interesting and unconventional note combinations.

They typically are created by small houses, and rely on word of mouth to sell.


Synthetic Fragrance

A fragrance that consists of man made notes which aim to imitate natural aromas.


Fragrance Concentrations

To make matters even more complicated, fragrances can have different concentrations of fragrance oils.

This doesn’t necessarily mean anything though, as there are some fragrances that have high concentrations, but have bad projection and performance.

Having said that, it is a good guideline.


No perfume terminology list would be complete without a grid of fragrance concentrations:

Concentration Name Percentage of Essential Oils (%)
Eau Fraiche 1-3
Eau de Cologne 2-4
Eau de Toilette 5-15
Eau de Purfum 15-20
Parfum 15-40


Conclusion – Fragrance Dictionary

Now you know all the perfume terminology required to start your fragrance journey, meaning you will no longer be baffled by the crazy jargon you may come across.

All that’s left to do is to take action, and find a fragrance that is perfect for you.


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[…] direct attempts to reproduce (or improve upon) a natural smell, for reasons of cost, safety, or performance. Sometimes, they’re just a novel smell, like Givaudan‘s aquatic smelling Ultrazur base. […]