From Middle English, an alteration of Pruce (“Prussia”), from New 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.
- Any of various large coniferous evergreen trees from the genus Picea, found in northern temperate and boreal regions; originally and more fully spruce fir.
- (uncountable) The wood of a spruce.
- (used attributively) Made of the wood of the spruce.
- That spruce table is beautiful!
- (obsolete) Prussia or Prussian leather; pruce.
- E. Phillips
- Spruce, a sort of leather corruptly so called for Prussia leather.
- E. Phillips
- (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, The Moon and Sixpence, chapter 31
- 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, The Economist, 13th Oct 2012, Plessey returns: Chips with everything
- The two clean rooms, where chips are made, are sprucer than a hospital theatre.
- (usually with up) To arrange neatly; tidy up.
- (usually with up) To make oneself spruce (neat and elegant in appearance).
- To tease.
- “spruce” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.