Spruce up is an idiom which has an etymology that is easily traced. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the term spruce up, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.
To spruce up means to make something tidy, to make something clean and neat, to make something smart in appearance. The term spruce up can be directly traced to a term for the country of Prussia. In the 1300s. a term for Prussia was Pruce. The word became corrupted to the form Spruce, and was used as an adjective to describe items that came from Prussia. Some examples are Spruce tree and Spruce beer. Another item imported from Prussia in 1400s was a particular item of male clothing called the Spruce jerkin, a leather, short-sleeved jacket worn by the well-to-do in England. The Spruce jerkin was the height of smart fashion at this time, and eventually the term spruce came to mean something smart in appearance. Eventually the word came to also mean something neat or tidy. Related terms are spruces up, spruced up, sprucing up. The term should be hyphenated when used as an adjective before a noun, as in spruce-up.
Examples“We do address any issues with car parks as a matter of course, however every couple of years we undertake a routine upgrade which involves a general spruce up of all the sites. (The Banbury Guardian)The grim warning came as a local resident issued a rallying call to the public to back efforts to spruce up the town and tackle some of its “disheartening” blackspots. (The Boss-Shire Journal)In its place now stands a well-tended garden, lawn and a spruced-up building. (The Indian Express)