Where does the word “spruce” come from and What does spruce mean?

Anything from Prussia or native to that region was said to be Pruce, in England of the Middle Ages.

Thus there was “Pruce beer” from the “Pruce tree,” and “Pruce leather,” and the country itself was “Pruceland.”

Gradually, through the fourteenth and later centuries, Pruce absorbed an initial “s” and became Spruce. This in turn was applied to the products of Prussia, or “Sprucia,” as it was now sometimes called.

There was then “Spruce beer” from the “Spruce tree,” “Spruce leather,” and so on.

Then, during the sixteenth century especially, men of fashion began to ape, in their dress, the manners of particular countries.

Thus in the reign of Henry VIII and for some time thereafter it was the style for courtiers to affect the garb of the nobles of Prussia, in doublets of crimson velvet, cloaks of satin, silver chains hanging from the neck, large, broad-brimmed hats with flowing feathers, and other fanciful attire.

Men thus gaily and smartly appareled were said to be spruce.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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