late 15c., "to use to one's profit," from Anglo-Fr. emprouwer
"to turn to profit" (late 13c.), from O.Fr. en-
, causative prefix, + prou
"profit," from L. prode
"advantageous" (see proud
). Meaning "to raise to a better quality or condition" first recorded 1610s. Phrase improve the occasion
retains the etymological sense. Meaning "to turn land to profit" (by clearing it, erecting buildings, etc.) was in Anglo-Fr. (13c.) and was retained in the American colonies.