\ 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 His slimmer look has been the focus of keen interest in South Korea, with media outlets publishing photos of his previous and current appearances. Fox News, 16 June 2021 Lorraine grew up with a passion for reading and a keen interest in her Black working-class peers. Imani Perry, The New York Review of Books, 15 June 2021 The prospect of a robot that’s not limited by its wheels is exciting to researchers, who have a keen interest in investigating sandy or steep terrain. Matt Simon, Wired, 14 June 2021 Zero emissions ferry vessels — and fuel cell technology — are of keen interest to the California Air Resources Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Taylor Kate Brown, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 June 2021 And if he has been vaccinated yet is newly infected, that would be of keen interest, too. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, 7 June 2021 Joel and Amie Stockstill also took a keen interest in their personal lives, the ex-interns said. NBC News, 18 May 2021 But with the arrival of a new administration, one with a keen interest in consumer rights, Kulka believed the case would soon be over., 14 May 2021 By that, Helbing is obviously referring to the cache of X-Kryptonite buried in Smallvile, which gave Tag powers after Jordan's heat vision went off in the pilot and is the reason Morgan Edge has taken such a keen interest in the town. Chancellor Agard,, 14 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Lyte’s ticket reservations aren’t the whole of its business, but the company keen to explore similarly fresh projects. Ethan Millman, Rolling Stone, 15 June 2021 Like most public figures, players are also routinely targeted by former associates keen to make a quick buck with cheap lines about them being disconnected from their roots. Zak Garner-purkis, Forbes, 26 May 2021 That, in turn, may have made public-health officials especially keen to be seen to take safety concerns seriously. The Economist, 15 Mar. 2021 For now, though, leaders in France and Italy are once again watching the U.S. race ahead and keen to mimic its fiscal formula. Greg Ip, WSJ, 28 Apr. 2021 The mind-boggling delays cause businesses initially keen on a Dallas address to give up and go to the suburbs. Sharon Grigsby, Dallas News, 27 Apr. 2021 The lunar nodal cycle was first formally documented in 1728 but has been known to keen astronomical observers for thousands of years. Brian Mcnoldy, The Conversation, 23 Apr. 2021 Until only a few years ago, that strategy was disparaged as a dodge for shady, penny-stock ventures keen to avoid the scrutiny of a traditional IPO. Fortune, 14 Apr. 2021 These pieces are often driven by quotes from data experts or regulators, keen on criticizing the company’s response as insufficient of framing the company’s assertion that the information was already public : misleading. Chris Smith, BGR, 21 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The launch of Le Grand Controle, which has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will no doubt come as a delight to those keen to wake up on the premises of this world-renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tamara Hardingham-gill, CNN, 2 June 2021 For those keen to stay fit and unwind, the Josun Wellness Club at Josun Palace features a heated indoor pool and a sumptuous deck area with panoramic vistas of the Gangnam skyline. Alexandra Kirkman, Forbes, 31 May 2021 Following the upheavals of the Arab Spring, an Obama administration keen on unwinding the ruinous wars and perceived overreach of the George W. Bush era got embroiled in a slate of Middle East crises. Washington Post, 28 May 2021 The release of the Treasury report makes sense in the domestic context - with the administration keen to protect its political flanks by not providing an opening for Republicans to complain about going soft on China. Vasuki Shastry, Forbes, 15 May 2021 Facing a Biden administration keen on seeing the deal come back, Israel is now putting the pressure on the Iranians. Ian Bremmer, Time, 19 Apr. 2021 Noble issued a plea to ticket-holders keen to soak up the Bluesfest vibe: Stay away. Lars Brandle, Billboard, 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, 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, 1 Mar. 2021

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

23 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Keen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jun. 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

More from Merriam-Webster on keen

Nglish: Translation of keen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of keen for Arabic Speakers


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