A copse is a wood filled with small growth, a thicket of brushwood. While copse is sometimes used interchangeably with coppice, there is a difference. Although having the same etymological root, coppice means a small wood subject to periodic cutting, or “coppicing.” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines the term as “to cut back so as to regrow in the form of a coppice; to sprout freely from the base.”) Copse, meanwhile, conjures the image of a limited area of trees, as in a stand or a grove. Both words enjoy more currency in the language of Ireland and Great Britain. This might reflect the degree to which their original forests have been reduced and domesticated, compared to the larger woodlands still found in North America.

Conger Beasley, Jr.