It can be tricky to know which word to use, especially when using homophones (words that sound the same as one another). Understandably, some people mix up the words “cent,” “scent” and “sent.” Today, we explain what each one means and when you should use them.
Cent (A Penny)
The word “cent” is pronounced with a soft “c” that sounds like an “s.” It comes from the Latin word “centum,” meaning “one hundred.”
It first started being used as a noun for currency in 1786. Since then, it has always referred to a coin worth one hundredth of a dollar:
I’m really struggling for money. I’m down to my last cent.
Scent (A Smell)
The “c” in this word is silent. It comes from the Latin “sentire,” meaning “sense.” It is a noun meaning “odor” and is almost always applied to pleasant smells, such as perfume or flowers:
The roses had such a lovely scent that she fell in love at once.
“Scent” can also be used as a verb, especially when referring to an animal’s sense of smell. For example:
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The shark scented the blood in the water.
“Sent” is the past tense of the verb “send,” which means “dispatch.” This word comes from the Old English “sendam,” which means “send forth, throw or impel”:
I sent my Great-Aunt a chocolate cake through the mail.
Cent, Scent or Sent?
Hopefully this has cleared up the meanings of these terms a bit! Remember:
Cent is a term for currency (one hundredth of a dollar)
Scent is to do with smells and the sense of smell
Sent is the past tense of “send” and means “dispatched”