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See also: Spruce


Picea abies, a species of spruce (tree)


From Middle English Spruce, an alteration of Pruce (Prussia), from Medieval Latin, from a Baltic language, probably Old Prussian; for more, see Prussia. Spruce, spruse (1412), and Sprws (1378) were terms for commodities brought to England by Hanseatic merchants (beer, wood, leather). The tree with this name was also believed to have been native to Prussia. The adjective and verb senses ("trim, neat" and "to make trim, neat") are attested from 1594, and originate with spruce leather (1466), which was used to make a popular style of jerkins in the 1400s that was considered smart-looking.

This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.
Particularly: “"Spruce leather" because tanned with the tree bark, or only because it came from Prussia? Split into two etymologies?”


  • enPR: spro͞os, (US) IPA(key): /spɹuːs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uːs


spruce (countable and uncountable, plural spruces or spruce)

  1. Any of various large coniferous evergreen trees or shrubs from the genus Picea, found in northern temperate and boreal regions; originally and more fully spruce fir.
  2. (uncountable) The wood of a spruce.
  3. (used attributively) Made of the wood of the spruce.
    That spruce table is beautiful!
  4. (obsolete) Prussian leather; pruce.

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spruce (comparative sprucer, superlative sprucest)

  1. (comparable) Smart, trim, and elegant in appearance; fastidious (said of a person).
    • 1916, Henry Beston, A Volunteer Poilu:
      ... a baker's boy in a white apron and blue jumpers went by carrying a basket of bread on his head; and from the nearby tobacconist's, a spruce young lieutenant dressed in a black uniform emerged lighting a cigarette.
    • 1919, William Somerset Maugham, “chapter 31”, in The Moon and Sixpence:
      He had great neatness of person, and he continued to wear his spruce black coat and his bowler hat, always a little too small for him, in a dapper, jaunty manner.
    • 1952, Norman Lewis, Golden Earth:
      A spruce young lieutenant came over, saluted and clambered into the back of our jeep, and we were off.
    • 2012 October 13, “Plessey returns: Chips with everything”, in The Economist:
      The two clean rooms, where chips are made, are sprucer than a hospital theatre.



spruce (third-person singular simple present spruces, present participle sprucing, simple past and past participle spruced)

  1. (usually with up) To arrange neatly; tidy up.
  2. (transitive, intransitive, usually with up) To make oneself spruce (neat and elegant in appearance).
  3. To tease. (Can we add an example for this sense?)

Derived terms[edit]