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 a possible 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.) According to research released in January 2015, slow-motion videos have shown that raindrops hitting porous surfaces cause the release of aerosols, tiny bubbles of liquid suspended in gas, which allows the liquid to be carried through the air in a way that is easily smelled.
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.