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1578, from coppice, by contraction, originally meaning “small wood grown for purposes of periodic cutting”.



copse (plural copses)

  1. A coppice: an area of woodland managed by coppicing (periodic cutting near stump level).
    Synonym: mott
  2. Any thicket of small trees or shrubs, coppiced or not.
    Synonyms: thicket, bush, orchard
    • 1578, Henry Lyte, transl., A niewe Herball or Historie of Plantes, translation of Cruydeboeck by Rembert Dodoens, page 57:
      Agrimonie groweth in places not tylled, in rough stone mountaynes, in hedges and Copses, and by waysides.
    • 1798, [William Wordsworth], “Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, in Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems, London: [] J[ohn] & A[rthur] Arch, [], →OCLC, page 202:
      The day is come when I again repose
      Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
      These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard tufts,
      Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
      Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
    • 1832 December (indicated as 1833), Alfred Tennyson, “The Lotos-Eaters”, in Poems, London: Edward Moxon, [], →OCLC, page 109:
      Three thundercloven thrones of oldest snow, / Stood sunsetflushed: and, dewed with showery drops, / Upclomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.
    • 1919, Ronald Firbank, Valmouth, Duckworth (hardback edition), p19:
      Striking the highway beyond the little copse she skirted the dark iron palings enclosing Hare.
  3. Any woodland or woodlot.
    Synonyms: stand, wood, woods

Usage notes[edit]

It is plausible that the broader senses of the word originated in listeners' and readers' misapprehension of the narrower sense, interpreting the word's meaning from context and coming away with only the idea of any dense young woodland or any woodland at all.




copse (third-person singular simple present copses, present participle copsing, simple past and past participle copsed)

  1. (transitive, horticulture) To trim or cut.
  2. (transitive, horticulture) To plant and preserve.

Further reading[edit]