Is it possible to use 'flavor' to refer to different 'TYPES' of non-eatable things?

Say, there's a deodorant. And it has four labels - Wild, Cool, Naughty and Anger. But then, all fall under 'Adidas' for example.

Now, is it possible to use 'flavor' in this way?

Here it is! Adidas Wild. You'll really love it.
Hmm...but it's not something I'm looking for. What are the other flavors in this. Show me.

In simpler example:

I know you use Set Wet deo, but which 'flavor'?

Here, Set Wet is a brand under which, there are many types of deo - stone, sport, lazy etc.

I think 'flavor' goes better with something we eat - chocolate flavor, cola flavor etc.

Also, I hesitate using 'types' there. Not sure why, but it does not seem to be a proper word with no ambiguity in this context.

  • Your examples contradict the question as deodorant is smellable. Your title states that for types of non-edible and non-smellable items yet your first sentence in your question states on non-edible items. So, to clarify, what is it that you require?
    – CipherBot
    Aug 17, 2015 at 7:29
  • thanks...that's right..I got confused because deos do come in 'flower flavors'. Editing. :) @CipherBot
    – Maulik V
    Aug 17, 2015 at 8:59

4 Answers 4


In general, yes you can use flavors in a figurative sense, meaning types. Deodorants (which you have apparently abbreviated as "deos"—that's a new one on me!) used to have names that were clearly scents (e.g. evergreen, coconut, spice) so it would make sense to ask which scents they had. But since they now name the scents more figuratively (fresh breeze, manly cool, blithe spirit, stone, sport, lazy !) with names meant more to evoke some mood rather than suggest an actual scent, it's just as sensible to ask what "flavors".

Some might cringe at the suggestion of tasting deodorant, but "flavor" is already used to describe rhings with neither taste nor smell: consider "plain-vanilla unix".

So yeah, go ahead; anyone would understand what you mean.

  • Another good example for using the word 'flavor' for non edible things is the flavors of quarks (things that make up parts of atoms), which are up, down, top, bottom, strange, and charm.. Aug 17, 2015 at 9:56

In addition to Brian's answer:

As he said, the word 'flavor' can be used loosely a distinguish between similar things that differ in some way other than just strictly taste. You may also be interested to know that this used was adopted in scientific research, and 'flavor' actually is the accepted term for describing the different types of elementary particle.

There are six flavors of quark, and three flavors of neutrino.


I would not call those flavors and if someone called them flavors while we were conversing, I would be puzzled. They are scents and should be referred to as scents.

It's true that flavor can be used in a metaphorical manner to refer to different styles or options. This metaphorical usage is common and widely understood. I would suggest, however, that referring to a scent as a flavor is confusing and will make your listener wonder if you've gone bonkers.

I have never heard anyone refer to a scent as a flavor and those suggesting that it is OK to do so are speaking in very generalized terms of what is possible -- when referring to quarks, for example. Scents should never be called flavors unless the Director of Marketing demands it. Don't do it.


I think that for deodrants, soap, shampoo etc and other types of non eatable products we can use the word "ESSENCE" instead of "FLAVOR/FLAVOUR".

  • That sounds like a marketing term, not a way to speak -- do you have any references to cite?
    – arp
    Feb 14, 2021 at 21:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .