\ 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 keenness (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 But during the call, which was arranged to discuss the EU’s coordinated response to the virus, Germany and the Netherlands didn’t seem keen on having a discussion on stimulus, a separate official said. Bloomberg.com, "Italy Cases Top 10,000; N.Y. Aims for Containment: Virus Update," 16 May 2020 Neighboring countries are not as keen to see Italy so willingly open its borders. Fox News, "Italy to open borders after three months of severe coronavirus lockdown," 16 May 2020 The president is understood to be keen to see the economy opening up by May 1, when his social distancing guidelines expire. Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, "Trump warned of small-business revolt if economy not opened soon," 13 Apr. 2020 Many Grey's viewers don't seem too keen on all the crossover episodes. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Grey's Anatomy' Fans Are Heated Over All of the 'Station 19' Crossover Episodes," 26 Mar. 2020 Fans will be keen to see if Yimmi Chara (winger), Jaroslaw Niezgoda (striker) and Felipe Mora (striker) can provide the Timbers with the kind of deadly attacking play the team has lauded since acquiring the trio during the offseason. oregonlive, "Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United: Live updates, score, odds, TV channel, how to watch live stream online," 1 Mar. 2020 Betts, who is due to make $27 million in 2020, seemed keen on getting to free agency at the end of the upcoming season. Julian Mcwilliams, BostonGlobe.com, "Red Sox to trade Mookie Betts, David Price to Dodgers," 4 Feb. 2020 Smart seems keen on using Hepa more moving forward . Nick Moyle, ExpressNews.com, "For Texas, trip to Waco could set tone for Big 12 season," 3 Jan. 2020 Perhaps the most challenging part are the positions where the competition is keen for a starting position. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "South Houston adapting well to at-home football preparations," 21 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Everton are monitoring the situation of Mario Mandzukic at Juventus, with Toffees boss Marco Silva keen on adding attacking reinforcements to his squad. SI.com, "Everton Eyeing Mario Mandzukic as Search for Attacking Reinforcements Continues," 17 July 2019 But many businesses, keen to cut costs after the virus cratered demand, slashed their advertising budgets. That’s hurt tech industry stalwarts including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Mark Gurman, Bloomberg.com, "Apple CEO Cook Says ‘Pandemic Cut Both Ways’ on Services Gains," 5 May 2020 His first albums, built on country blues foundations, shook with dexterous picking and a voice that keened and yipped and roared. Brendan Fitzgerald, Longreads, "“I miss my body when it was ferocious” The Transfiguration of Paul Curreri," 14 Mar. 2020 But whether the wind produced a lion’s roar, or merely keened or whistled or hummed, at its peak it was clocked by the National Weather Service at Reagan National Airport at 29 mph. Martin Weil, Washington Post, "On leap day in Washington area, winds spoke of March," 1 Mar. 2020 The visit by a potential future leader of North Korea could be seen as a symbolic gesture by Kim to show he’s keen to maintain the current lull in tensions over his nuclear weapons program. Kanga Kong, Bloomberg.com, "Kim Sends Sister to South Korea Olympics in Propaganda Coup," 7 Feb. 2018 Newcastle United has been on the market for some time with Ashley supposedly keen to end his wildly unpopular 12-year tenure as the club's owner. SI.com, "Goal! Inspired Mexican Businessmen Put Off Newcastle Takeover After Meeting With 'Rude' Mike Ashley," 22 Oct. 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The latest club keen, according to ESPN, is Trabzonspor, who have offered Sturridge a two-year contract with the option for a third season with the club, as well as an 'attractive' signing-on fee. SI.com, "Daniel Sturridge in Talks Over Trabzonspor Move as Search for New Club Continues," 29 July 2019 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

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

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Keen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/keen. Accessed 28 May. 2020.

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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

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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

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