1 of 3


: intellectually alert : having or characteristic of a quick penetrating mind
a keen student
a keen awareness of the problem
also : shrewdly astute
a keen assessment
: extremely sensitive in perception
keen eyes
a keen sense of smell
: sharply contested
keen competition
keen debate
: showing a quick and ardent responsiveness : enthusiastic
a keen swimmer
: eager
was keen to begin
of emotion or feeling : intense
the keen delight in the chaseF. W. Maitland
: wonderful, excellent
a keen idea
: having a fine edge or point : sharp
a knife with a keen blade
: affecting one as if by cutting
keen sarcasm
: pungent to the sense
a keen scent
keenly adverb
keenness noun


2 of 3


keened; keening; keens

intransitive verb

: to make a loud and long cry of sorrow : to lament with a keen
: 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
keened our sorrowPunch
keener noun


3 of 3


: a lamentation for the dead uttered in a loud wailing voice or sometimes in a wordless cry
keen on
: very enthusiastic or excited about
wasn't keen on going
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of keen in a Sentence

Adjective When you've been trying to remember something and you suddenly remember it, the mental pleasure is keen. Ian Frazier, Atlantic, October 2004
Indeed, tobacco processors were keen to promote variety even further by saturating and mixing the cut and spun leaf with a miscellany of spices … Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, 1988
But Mary wasn't keen on braving the Athens streets alone so Magnus went instead; Mary would do a museum in the morning. John le Carré, A Perfect Spy, 1986
That he took a keen interest in scientific navigation is indicated by his keeping a daybook or journal (which has not survived), and by making an honest effort to determine longitude. Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America, 1971
The keen clear wind swept in on his left cheek, and as he bore on the helm so the Sophie answered, quicker and more nervous than he had expected. Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander, 1970
Planting himself squarely before the two tall cowboys who were standing, he looked straight into their lean, bronzed faces. He spared a full moment for that keen cool gaze before he spoke. Zane Grey, Desert Gold, 1913
She's a very keen observer of the political world. pilots with especially keen eyesight Verb mourners keening at a funeral victims of the disaster have been keening for weeks about the slowness of governmental aid Noun the loud keens of the widows were heard throughout the war-ravaged city See More
Recent Examples on the Web
In keeping with the accessibility theme, one group 9am Health is particularly keen to serve is Medicare recipients. Steven Aquino, Forbes, 29 Nov. 2023 When discovered, Bibi is forbidden to play, but the gang isn’t keen to lose, not only one of their best players, but also one of their best friends. Anna Marie De La Fuente, Variety, 28 Nov. 2023 Bosun Luka Brunton seems keen to welcome Natalya back into the fold — and into his arms, much to the annoyance of his current pursuit Jessika Asai. Charna Flam, Peoplemag, 27 Nov. 2023 Bio Ionic's curling iron is also a must for anyone keen on stepping their at-home styling up a notch. Jenny Berg, Vogue, 24 Nov. 2023 Of course, Biden may not be keen to take this path, but a failure to do so could haunt him at the polls next year, particularly among important constituencies, such as Arab and Muslim Americans in Michigan and other swing states, and among young voters. Joost R. Hiltermann, Foreign Affairs, 22 Nov. 2023 During the first week of September 1958, keen observers spotted hundreds of rare birds in the British Isles. Maddie Bender, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Nov. 2023 Biden is well aware that easy flowing money from Wall Street is helping China weather choppier economic waters of late and is keen to turn off the tap. Michael Beckley, The Conversation, 17 Nov. 2023 And in recent years, shareholders have seemed far more keen on his endeavors in artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, and two-legged Optimus droids. Bychristiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 20 Nov. 2023
However, by the second movement, Kavakos’s violin keened a melancholy, aria-esque melody in iridescent threads of sound, answered in turn by a cool flute. Globe Staff,, 21 Aug. 2023 In these wondrously transporting images of juddering waves and swirling particles, accompanied by the rumbling, surging, keening strains of Ludwig Göransson’s magnificent score, Nolan makes a rare leap into realms of pure cinematic abstraction. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 19 July 2023 Ayler burst onto the New York scene, in 1963, with a roaring and screeching and keening fervor that left behind conventional forms of rhythm and harmony but added the folk elements of spirituals, marches, and blues—and a realm of spirits and ghosts that inhabit those forms. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 18 July 2023 Companies aren’t leaving the market but investing in China has become much more complex, with firms needing to keen an eye on geopolitics and sanctions, as well as business conditions and markets, according to Joerg Wuttke, the president of the chamber in China. Bloomberg News,, 14 Feb. 2023 Sevilla, also keen on Otamendi, is still an unlikely candidate to go down—a fate that would see its global status suffer a hefty blow. Henry Flynn, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2022 How to claim $1,000 first-bet insurance Marylanders can get into the action at BetMGM, with sports bettors keen on signing up and making the most of the $1,000 first-bet insurance welcome bonus. Catena Media, oregonlive, 28 Nov. 2022 The ensuing delays have tempted companies initially keen on a Dallas address to look elsewhere. Dallas News, 14 Feb. 2022 Priya Kansara leads as Ria, a daydreamer and keen martial artist who aspires to become a stuntwoman. Thomas Page, CNN, 27 Jan. 2023
For those keen to explore the country deeper and differently, Vinho Verde awaits. Nicole Kliest, Vogue, 25 Jan. 2023 For those keen on camping, this portable, self-inflating tent is designed to be water- and weather-resistant. Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping, 9 Jan. 2023 All three species are, in fact, powerful stimulants, and, as such, have long attracted those keen to enjoy their attributes. Wade Davis, Rolling Stone, 17 Dec. 2022 This historic city on the country's southeast coast not only has one of the most beautiful castles in Scandinavia but is also ideal for those keen on outdoor adventure. Joe Minihane, CNN, 8 Nov. 2022 The Ravens have a hole at wide receiver but a front office keen on preserving its draft capital. Jonas Shaffer, Baltimore Sun, 20 Oct. 2022 The appeal of eating these foods outdoors is partly about smell: A hot dog smothered in onions benefits from a bit of outdoor breeze to carry the onion smell away and keep your appetite keen. Bee Wilson, WSJ, 3 Sep. 2022 Speaking of those keen on harming the former Mrs. Fred Waterford, Mayday has come through for June. Matt Cabral,, 22 Sep. 2022 Pitbulls were once popular, especially among those keen on dog fights. Niharika Sharma, Quartz, 13 Sep. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'keen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Noun

Middle English kene brave, sharp, from Old English cēne brave; akin to Old High German kuoni brave


Irish caoinim I lament, weep

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a


1845, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1830, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of keen was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near keen

Cite this Entry

“Keen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 adjective
: having a sharp edge or point
a keen knife
: seeming to cut or sting
a keen wind
: full of enthusiasm
keen about baseball
: having or showing mental sharpness
a keen mind
: very sensitive (as in seeing or hearing)
keen eyesight
: very nice : wonderful
gee, that's keen
keenly adverb
keenness noun


2 of 3 verb
: to mourn in a loud wailing voice


3 of 3 noun
: a mourning for the dead with loud wails

More from Merriam-Webster on keen

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