\ 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

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Other Words from keen


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


keener noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for keen

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective This was a time when a lot of men weren’t so keen on that. Frederick N. Rasmussen,, "Capt. Asbury ‘Sandy’ Coward IV, a Navy officer and aviator who directed candidate guidance at the Naval Academy, dies," 7 Apr. 2021 India, the world’s fourth largest carbon emitter, is not keen on joining the climate club. Tilak Doshi, Forbes, "Belong To The Climate Club Or Get Penalized: The EU’s New Trade Protectionism," 6 Apr. 2021 Even without having to operate these properties, lenders aren’t keen on owning malls. Esther Fung, WSJ, "American Dream’s Owner Defaulted. That Could Cost It Revenue From Other Malls," 6 Apr. 2021 That's exactly why Chris Brown, CEO of Tudor Housing Consulting, is so keen on Raleigh. Kelsey Mulvey, Good Housekeeping, "First-Time Homeowner? Here are the Best Places to Live in the U.S.," 31 Mar. 2021 Normally, Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti isn’t keen on buying out players, but Rivers is on a team friendly contract that is non-guaranteed after this season. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, "LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond highlight NBA's top buyout candidates," 26 Mar. 2021 The bad news is that talks with Blunt have supposedly broken down, as the actress isn’t keen on inking a multi-picture deal that would directly impact their family life. Chris Smith, BGR, "This ‘Fantastic Four’ rumor is going to devastate Marvel fans," 21 Mar. 2021 Gaglardi probably isn’t keen on doing that during a pandemic economy. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "Matt’s Mail: What is the Dallas Stars’ path forward if their season doesn’t improve?," 12 Mar. 2021 The Biden administration is committed to applying the freshest thinking of the 1930s to contemporary challenges, while congressional Democrats are keen on mandating that all 50 states adopt what is worst and most destructive in California practice. The Editors, National Review, "PRO? Con," 11 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Within two weeks, the tiny black kitten was surrendered by his alleged catnapper, thanks to keen sleuthing work by a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s detective. Susannah Bryan,, "Rescue kitten stolen in Boca. Why group says he’s bound for ‘kitt-ness protection program’," 28 Mar. 2021 Republicans keen to deflect attention from Biden's successful Covid-19 rescue bill and a quickening vaccine drive are flocking to the border. Stephen Collinson With Tatiana Arias, CNN, "President Joe Biden has got his first big political crisis that is all his own," 19 Mar. 2021 This arrangement mostly benefits fans of congressional gridlock, but for Democrats keen to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda, which is now moving steadily through the House of Representatives, the filibuster remains a fatal hurdle. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Mitch McConnell Doesn’t Care About Saving the Senate," 16 Mar. 2021 But the group also wasn't keen on hearing from Trump, indicating messaging from someone outside of the political realm would be more effective. Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY, "Biden isn't waiting for Trump's help to persuade MAGA supporters to get vaccinated," 16 Mar. 2021 The Riverwalk in the city will be closed Saturday and locals keen to see the spectacle are urged to avoid lingering. Marlene Lenthang, ABC News, "Despite St. Patrick's Day COVID restrictions, Chicago River runs green," 13 Mar. 2021 Those keen to sail away from the Covid-19 pandemic and other travails of the past year can literally do just that this April in beautiful, balmy Bermuda. Alexandra Kirkman, Forbes, "The Ultimate Spring Break 2021 Escape: An Exclusive Sailing Championship In Beautiful Bermuda," 25 Feb. 2021 Buyers keen on selecting their home’s finishes, such as countertops and flooring, have an opportunity to bring their vision to life by buying into the new building early. Dallas News, "Final condo building set for construction," 28 Feb. 2021 Like Cherry, Chirkun is a Democrat and keen on hunting, usually for deer each fall. Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press, "Hunter wants lock-up law in Michigan for guns in homes with young children," 25 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Noble issued a plea to ticket-holders keen to soak up the Bluesfest vibe: Stay away. Lars Brandle, Billboard, "Bluesfest 2021 Canceled Following COVID-19 Outbreak," 31 Mar. 2021 The study revealed that respondents reacted negatively to hypothetical women leaders when they were described as ambitious or having a keen will to power. Kirsten Garbini, Forbes, "Gender And Leadership: How To Create Change," 2 Mar. 2021 The hotel sits at the intersection of Downtown Crossing, Beacon Hill, and the Financial District, and is a short walk to Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, the waterfront, and TD Garden for those keen on catching a Celtics or Bruins game. Travel + Leisure, "Boston Travel Guide," 1 Mar. 2021 For those keen on eco-friendly options, Weldon Smith suggests steering clear of anything made with a high content of brand new synthetic materials (or virgin materials). Talia Abbas, Glamour, "27 Best Workout Leggings for Whatever Gets You Moving," 21 Jan. 2021 But each new development in the case has been chronicled feverishly in a press keen for content on the charismatic midfielder who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup championship at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Patrick J. Mcdonnell, Los Angeles Times, "The life of soccer great Diego Maradona was fit for the tabloids. So is his death," 3 Dec. 2020 The third and final stage uses stropping discs to create that keen—and safe—edge. Barnett Whitetail Hunter Pro Crossbow Package—Now $500 (was $600). The Editors, Field & Stream, "The Best Cabela’s Cyber Monday Deals: Early Bargains Before the Holiday," 16 Nov. 2020 Working out with Series 6 Since the Series 6 isn't scientifically approved to be a medical device, its best described as a fitness device for those keen on tracking their calories burned, workout intensity and overall wellness. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "Apple Watch Series 6: Is it worth it to upgrade?," 25 Sep. 2020 The picture of post-lockdown Britain that is beginning to emerge is of a society keen to return to something like its roots. Natasha Khullar Relph, The Christian Science Monitor, "Once struggling, Britain’s corner shops give comfort to UK shoppers," 21 Sep. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for keen

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for keen

Last Updated

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Keen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for keen



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

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for keen

Nglish: Translation of keen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of keen for Arabic Speakers

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