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[smahr-tn] /ˈsmɑr tn/
verb (used with object)
to make more trim or spruce; improve in appearance (usually followed by up):
Try to smarten up your outfit.
to make brisker, as a pace.
to sharpen the judgment or broaden the experience of; educate (usually followed by up):
Someone has to smarten him up about dealing with people.
Verb phrases
smarten up,
  1. to groom oneself:
    to smarten up before dinner.
  2. to become aware of one's mistakes, shortcomings, etc., and make efforts to correct them:
    If you don't smarten up, you're going to be out of a job.
Origin of smarten
1805-15; smart + -en1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for smarten up
Historical Examples
  • The guide suggested that we smarten up our gait, and we put the horses to a canter.

    A Little Union Scout Joel Chandler Harris
  • I had done my best to smarten up my uniform, and make all my accoutrements bright and glistening.

  • At the tavern, where we went to smarten up and to eat, we chanced upon Gregory.

    The Cavalier George Washington Cable
  • That did not take her half-an-hour, but when she came down the woman had done her best to smarten up her room.

    Mother Meg Catharine Shaw
  • The next day we had to smarten up and get ready for the Brigadier-General, who was going to inspect us.

    Into the Jaws of Death Jack O'Brien
  • Next day he sent for the senior officer, and after a short talk with him told him to smarten up his subaltern.

    General Gatacre Beatrix Gatacre
  • Take my word for it, George, Ox Lease will have to smarten up a bit for this young lady.

    Six Plays Florence Henrietta Darwin
  • But I've got a hunch that if we play dumb at first, then smarten up slowly, we can make him feel that he's done it for us.

    Danger in Deep Space Carey Rockwell
British Dictionary definitions for smarten up


verb (usually foll by up)
(intransitive) to make oneself neater
(transitive) to make quicker or livelier
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for smarten up



"to make smart, to spruce up, to improve appearance," 1786, from smart (adj.) in its sense of "spruce, trim" + -en (1). Related: Smartened; smartening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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