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90s Slang You Should Know


[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
First recorded in 1805-15; smart + -en1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for smarten
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
  • He's one of the sons, and he'd smarten 'em up if he had his way.

    The Eldest Son Archibald Marshall
  • When they had gone the poor Simpleton began to tease his mother to smarten him up and let him start off.

    The Yellow Fairy Book Leonora Blanche Alleyne Lang
  • This afternoon ammunition drill, &c., to smarten the men up.

    Letters from France Isaac Alexander Mack
  • But it was impossible to smarten oneself up or move to another place, because of the crowd.

    War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
  • I had done my best to smarten up my uniform, and make all my accoutrements bright and glistening.

  • "You might smarten yourself with that change, Elmore," she addressed him, ignoring his companion.

    The Imperialist (a.k.a. Mrs. Everard Cotes) Sara Jeannette Duncan
  • 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
  • An immense change had taken place in Cousin Betty; and Valerie, who wanted to smarten her, had turned it to the best account.

    Cousin Betty Honore de Balzac
  • The girls went to ride with him, and naturally began to smarten their dress and accents and to change their estimates.

    'Charge It' Irving Bacheller
British Dictionary definitions for smarten


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

"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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