\ ˈkēn How to pronounce keen (audio) \

Definition of keen

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : 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
b : extremely sensitive in perception keen eyes a keen sense of smell
c : sharply contested keen competition keen debate
2a(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
3 : wonderful, excellent a keen idea
4a : having a fine edge or point : sharp a knife with a keen blade
b : affecting one as if by cutting keen sarcasm
c : pungent to the sense a keen scent
keen on
: very enthusiastic or excited about wasn't keen on going


keened; keening; keens

Definition of keen (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

1a : 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
2 : to lament, mourn, or complain loudly

transitive verb

: to utter with a loud wailing voice or wordless cry keened our sorrowPunch



Definition of keen (Entry 3 of 3)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from keen


keenly adverb
keenness \ ˈkēn-​nəs How to pronounce keenness (audio) \ noun


keener noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for keen

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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: Adjective Jones also developed a keen interest in medieval history, eventually writing a couple of books on Chaucer-era England and hosting some history documentaries. Eric Bangeman, Ars Technica, "Monty Python’s Terry Jones joins the choir invisible," 22 Jan. 2020 Russia in particular has a keen interest in obtaining internal documents and selectively leaking them for political advantage. Brian Barrett, Wired, "Security News This Week: FBI Takes Down Site With 12 Billion Stolen Records," 18 Jan. 2020 The bill has bipartisan support and, significantly, keen interest from the corporate community. Carol Cain, Detroit Free Press, "Sold-out Breakfast Club set for big talk with local leaders about regional transit," 18 Jan. 2020 With Enzi opting to retire and, especially with her keen interest in foreign affairs, colleagues expected Cheney to jump at the chance to vault to the Senate. David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, "Eye on the prize: Liz Cheney forsakes Senate for House speaker ambitions," 17 Jan. 2020 In an inversion of the darbars (king’s court) of yore and the panchayats (village councils) of today, the women sit in protest while the men stand outside a neat perimeter, looking on with keen interest. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "At a women-led protest site in India, Muslims navigate identity, hope, and despair," 2 Jan. 2020 Readers took keen interest when the city signed off on a road project to revamp the East Shoreway interchange at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "Wacky, wonky, embarrassments and developments led readers’ most-read stories from Cleveland City Hall," 26 Dec. 2019 The president has taken a keen interest in a slew of energy-efficiency rules affecting appliances and lighting, which experts describe as the most cost-effective way to curb greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. Author: Toluse Olorunnipa, Juliet Eilperin, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump attacks on wind turbines, low-flow toilets and LED lightbulbs set up campaign clash with Democrats," 24 Dec. 2019 Though the bill is of keen interest in horse country, Barr is the only one of Kentucky’s six House members on board. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Horse racing anti-doping bill attains majority support in U.S. House of Representatives," 19 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Serene waves of sound underpin Mr. Mahadevan’s gentle, keening vocals, and then the duo is joined by Mr. Hussain, whose tablas gently complement the vocals and guitar. Martin Johnson, WSJ, "‘Is That So?’ by John McLaughlin Review: Meditative Jamming," 24 Jan. 2020 James Rodriguez is Atletico Madrid's main target for another attacking addition to their squad, ahead of Christian Eriksen, with Real Madrid keen to sell to their rivals. SI.com, "Atletico Madrid Favour James Rodriguez Deal Above Christian Eriksen as Real Madrid Seek Quick Sale," 23 July 2019 But the day before the vote was one of the quietest Hong Kong has experienced in months, with protesters keen to avoid giving the authorities any excuse to cancel the elections. Washington Post, "Hong Kong votes in local elections with unprecedented fanfare," 24 Nov. 2019 Criminals can cash out by selling to gamers keen to acquire games or virtual items cheaply. The Economist, "Financial crime through video games is on the rise," 7 Nov. 2019 Koenig’s light, boyish vocals are deceptive — like Paul Simon’s keening entreaties that soft-pedaled erudition to both flatter and challenge listeners. Armond White, National Review, "Vampire Weekend Makes the Best Pop-Political Album of the Year," 10 Dec. 2019 The group is struggling to control smaller factions keen on conflict with Israel, many of them stocked with disillusioned ex-Hamasniks. The Economist, "A kaleidoscope of possibilities The politics surrounding an assassination and its aftermath in Gaza," 14 Nov. 2019 This comes following reports that the Sky Blues are prepared to lose winger Leroy Sane, with the player still keen on a move to Bayern Munich. SI.com, "Man Utd to Battle Man City for Jadon Sancho With Citizens 'Very Interested'," 31 Oct. 2019 Not keen on going down without a fight, Birmingham grabbed an equaliser through substitute Hannah Keryakoplis. SI.com, "The Forgotten Final Day: Reliving the Most Dramatic Title Race in WSL History," 28 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Liverpool's away kit for the 2020/21 season is reportedly set to be a 'hyper turquoise' colour, with new manufacturers Nike keen on bringing out a different look for the Reds. SI.com, "Liverpool 2020/21 Away Kit Details Leaked as Nike Decide on Colour," 3 Oct. 2019 Fosun, a Chinese conglomerate keen to deploy the Cook brand in Asia, and the firm’s lenders had agreed to rescue the company with a cash injection of £900m ($1.1bn). The Economist, "Checking out Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, collapses," 26 Sep. 2019 And his number one target is now Rose, with the 60-year-old keen to beat both Schalke and PSG to the Englishman's signature. SI.com, "Juventus Manager Maurizio Sarri Eyes Move for Danny Rose as Schalke & PSG Also Chase Left Back," 23 July 2019 Thousands of men, keen of brain and firm of purpose, are enlisted on both sides, spending vast sums of money, and operating entire navies on the seas, and airplanes and motor fleets on land. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "Rewind: What Guarding Uncle Sam's Borders Was Like in 1925," 11 Feb. 2019 It is reported that United are not the only side keen on Kovacic, with Juventus, Inter and Tottenham also reportedly interested in his signature. SI.com, "Man Utd Interested in Real Madrid's Mateo Kovacic as Jose Mourinho Targets Midfield Additions," 5 Feb. 2018 Lacy, a keen and experienced motorcyclist, was killed Nov. 30 in a motorcycle crash in Botswana. Will Higgins, Indianapolis Star, "Deaths of 2017: Indiana celebrities and 'everyday Hoosiers' we lost," 26 Dec. 2017 Fenway, an all black shorthair, was overweight, slow-moving and keen on sleeping 23 hours a day. Unless food was involved. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Saying goodbye to a food-loving friend, Fenway the cat," 4 Nov. 2017 Well, that's a little more adventure than my Keens have seen. Christopher Elliott, USA TODAY, "The best shoes for your summer trip," 28 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'keen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of keen


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


1845, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1830, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for keen

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about keen

Time Traveler for keen

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for keen

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Keen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/keen. Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for keen

How to pronounce keen (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of keen

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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



English Language Learners Definition of keen (Entry 2 of 2)

old-fashioned + literary : to make a loud and long cry of sorrow
\ ˈkēn How to pronounce keen (audio) \
keener; keenest

Kids Definition of keen

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

Other Words from keen

keenly adverb
keenness noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on keen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for keen

Spanish Central: Translation of keen

Nglish: Translation of keen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of keen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on keen

What made you want to look up keen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

February 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of probity?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!