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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for smarten

Historical Examples of smarten

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

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

  • Antiquity has a charm of its own, and to smarten it up would only damage it.

    A Tramp Abroad, Complete

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

  • He's one of the sons, and he'd smarten 'em up if he had his way.

    The Eldest Son

    Archibald Marshall

  • "Your 'Enery will 'ave to smarten 'isself up a bit fer their dear sakes," I ses.

  • This afternoon ammunition drill, &c., to smarten the men up.

    Letters from France

    Isaac Alexander Mack

British Dictionary definitions for smarten


verb (usually foll by up)

(intr) to make oneself neater
(tr) 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

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