Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of various coniferous evergreen trees of the genus Picea, having needlelike foliage, drooping cones, and soft wood often used for paper pulp.
  • n. Any of various similar or related trees.
  • n. The wood of any of these trees.
  • n. A grayish green to dark greenish black.
  • adj. Neat, trim, and smart in appearance: "a good-looking man; spruce and dapper, and very tidy” ( Anthony Trollope).
  • transitive v. To make neat and trim: spruced up the chairs with new slipcovers.
  • intransitive v. To make oneself neat and smart in appearance: He was sprucing for the school dance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of various large coniferous evergreen trees from the genus Picea, found in northern temperate and boreal regions; originally and more fully spruce fir.
  • n. The wood of a spruce.
  • n. Made of the wood of the spruce.
  • adj. Smart, trim, and elegant in appearance; fastidious (said of a person).
  • v. To arrange neatly; tidy up.
  • v. ) To make oneself spruce (neat and elegant in appearance).
  • v. To tease.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Any coniferous tree of the genus Picea, as the Norway spruce (P. excelsa), and the white and black spruces of America (P. alba and P. nigra), besides several others in the far Northwest. See picea.
  • n. The wood or timber of the spruce tree.
  • n. Prussia leather; pruce.
  • adj. Neat, without elegance or dignity; smart; trim; -- formerly applied to things with a serious meaning; now chiefly applied to persons.
  • adj. Sprightly; dashing.
  • transitive v. To dress with affected neatness; to trim; to make spruce; -- often used with up.
  • intransitive v. To dress one's self with affected neatness.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Prussian leather. Compare Pruce.
  • Smart in dress and appearance; affecting neatness or dapperness, especially in dress; trim; hence often, with a depreciatory force, dandified; smug.
  • Over-fastidious; excessively nice; finical.
  • Synonyms Foppish, etc. (see finical), smart, jaunty, nice, dandyish.
  • To make spruce; trim or dress so as to present a smart appearance: sometimes followed by up.
  • To brown, as the crust of bread, by heating the oven too much.
  • To become spruce; assume or affect an air of smartness in dress: often followed by up.
  • n. A coniferous tree of the genus Picea; a spruce-fir.
  • n. P. Engelmanni, the most valuable timber-tree of the central Rocky Mountain region, where it forms extensive forests. Its wood is of a white or pale-yellow color, light and soft, in Colorado affording lumber, fuel, and charcoal. The bark is rich in tannin, which is locally utilized.
  • n. P. pungens, a rare and local mountain species of the western United States. Also called blue spruce, Colorado blue spruce.
  • n. An abbreviation of spruce-beer.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. any coniferous tree of the genus Picea
  • adj. marked by up-to-dateness in dress and manners
  • v. make neat, smart, or trim
  • v. dress and groom with particular care, as for a special occasion
  • n. light soft moderately strong wood of spruce trees; used especially for timbers and millwork

Etymologies

Short for obsolete Spruce fir, Prussian fir, from Middle English Spruce, Prussia, alteration of Pruce from Anglo-Norman Pruz, from Medieval Latin Prussia.
Perhaps from obsolete spruce leather, Prussian leather, from Middle English Spruce, Prussia; see spruce1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, an alteration of Pruce ("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. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The "black" or "double spruce" (_Pinus nigra_), is that species from the twigs of which is extracted the essence that gives its peculiar flavour to the well-known "_spruce beer_."

    The Young Voyageurs Boy Hunters in the North

  • Such is the bacillus Thurigiensis which is currently under investigation and may well prove to be an effective agent against the budworm disease in spruce, which is at present devastating some of our eastern forests.

    Of Microbes, Man and Survival

  • Prussia, which we call spruce, and Norway (especially from Gottenberg) and about Riga, are the best; unless we had more commerce of them from our Plantations in New England, which are preferable to any of them; there lying rotting at present at Pascataway, a mast of such prodigious dimensions, as no body will adventure to ship, and bring away.

    Sylva, Vol. 1 (of 2) Or A Discourse of Forest Trees

  • Often called the "People's Tree," this year's tree is an 85-foot blue spruce from the two million-acre Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona.

    Chelsea Clinton to marry

  • The spruce trees and Scotch fir were our stronghold, and it was in spruce thickets we made our hiding-places by day.

    Three Times and Out: A Canadian Boy's Experience in Germany

  • Conifers predominate in the forests of Canada, and amongst those conifers spruce is by far the most abundant growth.

    The Forest Wealth of Canada

  • The hemlock spruce is a very common tree in this part of the country, and an imposing evergreen, ranking in height with the tallest oaks, and ashes, and elms of the forest.

    Rural Hours

  • Governor Chafee's solution to call the spruce in the State House a "Holiday Tree" has elicited howls of outrage from citizens complaining of the secularization of this Christian holiday.

    Jeffrey Small: The Origins Of Christmas

  • The next day, as we come down Eighth Street at dusk, with shop lights casting color on the hard-packed snow, she impulsively buys a small fat spruce from the Italian with the truck.

    In the Fullness of Time

  • Further disturbance to the hydrological balance has been caused by drainage and land reclamation projects underway since the 1960s, with roads and over 90 km of canals constructed within the Reserve so far, which threaten one of the most economically important species in the forest, the Norway spruce, which is extremely sensitive to changes in the ground water table (Anon, 1991).

    Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Belarus

Comments

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  • I'm working on a comment about Roland Barthes, women's clothing, and lumberjacks, but I think I'll need learn French before I can understand my own joke.

    August 9, 2011

  • According to one theory, the word "spruce" may be a borrowing from a Polish expression"drzewo/drewno z Prus": "tree/timber from Prussia", in which case the initial s- would be derived from the Slavic preposition s/z, "from".

    August 9, 2011