Petrichor is the pleasant smell
that accompanies the first rain
after a dry spell
. The word
was coined in 1964 by Australia
n researchers Isabel Joy Bear and R.G. Thomas for an article in Nature
(volume 993, issue 2); they derive
d the word from petro
), a root that comes from Greek petros
), and ichor
that is supposed to flow in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology
). A literal translation
might be "stone-essence
The originators' article explained the source of this scent: that vegetation gives off oily compounds which accumulate on the soil and rocks, particularly clay-based ones. (One author even uses the phrase "the smell of unbaked clay" to describe the phenomenon.) Rain causes these compounds to be released into the air.
One online discussion-forum user says that 'the scent of petrichor has been extracted from rocks in Italy and marketed as "earthscent".' (I haven't found any independent confirmation of that.) In the animal world, this same scent is apparently a mating/egg-laying trigger for some wetland species. And an Edinburgh rock group has chosen to call itself Petrichor.