adjective \ˈkēn\

: having or showing an ability to think clearly and to understand what is not obvious or simple about something

: very strong and sensitive : highly developed

: very excited about and interested in something

Full Definition of KEEN

a :  having a fine edge or point :  sharp
b :  affecting one as if by cutting <keen sarcasm>
c :  pungent to the sense <a keen scent>
a (1) :  showing a quick and ardent responsiveness :  enthusiastic <a keen swimmer> (2) :  eager <was keen to begin>
b of emotion or feeling :  intense <the keen delight in the chase — F. W. Maitland>
a :  intellectually alert :  having or characteristic of a quick penetrating mind <a keen student> <a keen awareness of the problem>; also :  shrewdly astute
b :  sharply contested <keen debate>
c :  extremely sensitive in perception <keen eyes>
keen·ly adverb
keen·ness \ˈkēn-nəs\ noun
keen on
:  very enthusiastic or excited about <wasn't keen on going>

Examples of KEEN

  1. She's a very keen observer of the political world.
  2. <pilots with especially keen eyesight>
  3. When you've been trying to remember something and you suddenly remember it, the mental pleasure is keen. —Ian Frazier, Atlantic, October 2004

Origin of KEEN

Middle English kene brave, sharp, from Old English cēne brave; akin to Old High German kuoni brave
First Known Use: 13th century

Synonym Discussion of KEEN

sharp, keen, acute mean having or showing alert competence and clear understanding. sharp implies quick perception, clever resourcefulness, or sometimes questionable trickiness <sharp enough to spot a confidence game>. keen suggests quickness, enthusiasm, and a penetrating mind <a keen observer of the political scene>. acute implies a power to penetrate and may suggest subtlety and sharpness of discrimination <an acute sense of style>.

eager, avid, keen, anxious, athirst mean moved by a strong and urgent desire or interest. eager implies ardor and enthusiasm and sometimes impatience at delay or restraint <eager to get started>. avid adds to eager the implication of insatiability or greed <avid for new thrills>. keen suggests intensity of interest and quick responsiveness in action <keen on the latest fashions>. anxious emphasizes fear of frustration or failure or disappointment <anxious not to make a social blunder>. athirst stresses yearning but not necessarily readiness for action <athirst for adventure>.


noun \ˈkēn\

Definition of KEEN

:  a lamentation for the dead uttered in a loud wailing voice or sometimes in a wordless cry

Examples of KEEN

  1. <the loud keens of the widows were heard throughout the war-ravaged city>

Origin of KEEN

(see 1keen)
First Known Use: 1830


verb \ˈkēn\

: to make a loud and long cry of sorrow

Full Definition of KEEN

intransitive verb
a :  to make a loud and long cry of sorrow :  to lament with a keen
b :  to make a sound suggestive of a loud cry of sorrow <a keening siren>
:  to lament, mourn, or complain loudly
transitive verb
:  to utter with a loud wailing voice or wordless cry
keen·er noun

Examples of KEEN

  1. mourners keening at a funeral
  2. <victims of the disaster have been keening for weeks about the slowness of governmental aid>

Origin of KEEN

Irish caoinim I lament, weep
First Known Use: 1845
KEEN ON Defined for Kids


adjective \ˈkēn\

Definition of KEEN for Kids

:  having a fine edge or point :  sharp <a keen knife>
:  having or showing mental sharpness <a keen observation>
:  very sensitive (as in seeing, smelling, or hearing) <keen eyesight>
:  full of enthusiasm :  eager <… everybody was very keen to hear details of what had happened … — J. K. Rowling, Goblet of Fire>
:  seeming to cut or sting <a keen wind>
keen·ly adverb
keen·ness noun


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