• copse •
Pronunciation: kahps • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A small grove of wild trees, a woodsy area, a thicket, an uncultivated coppice.
Notes: With the aggressive building that has been taking place in the US over the past decade, in many areas forests are becoming copses, making today's Good Word too useful to lose. It is a beautiful word (despite sounding like the plural of cop), though you couldn't say the same for its plural: copses. I know you confuse this word all the time with coppice, which is equally beautiful. The difference is that a coppice is cultivated on someone's estate, often for the purpose of cutting it for firewood and such.
In Play: One of the advantages of bucolic living is the availability of copses, a natural playground for kids: "The children loved to play in a little copse behind the house all summer." However, be careful not to confuse your copses with your coppices: "It isn't so much a copse as a coppice since we periodically harvest firewood from it and, at Christmastide, holly and mistletoe."
Word History: Today's Good Word descended from Middle English copys, from Old French copeiz "thicket for cutting", based on the verb coper, couper, "to cut". Old French inherited the word from the presumable Vulgar Latin verb colpare (no written example has been found), from Late Latin colpus "a blow". In Classical Latin the word was colaphus, borrowed from Greek kolaphos. (Sue Gillmor of Portland in the state of Maine, which is filled not only with copses but large preserved forestlands, thought to share this lovely word with us.)