\ ˈkēn \

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 \ noun


keener noun

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


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


mourners keening at a funeral victims of the disaster have been keening for weeks about the slowness of governmental aid


the loud keens of the widows were heard throughout the war-ravaged city
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Southampton seem keen to strengthen their defensive unit, with Denmark defender Jannik Vestergaard set to have a medical on the south coast on Monday., "Man City Goalkeeper 'Close to Joining' Southampton as He Seeks Regular First Team Football," 9 July 2018 What’s more, lawmakers familiar with the bill do not seem keen on it, and ultimately any bill would need to be approved by Congress. Natasha Bach, Fortune, "The Trump Administration Drafted a Bill That Basically Pulls the U.S. Out of the WTO. Here's What It Says," 2 July 2018 Regardless of the site's current state, the North Koreans seem keen to control even what the journalists invited to view its destruction can learn about it. James Griffiths, CNN, "How to get to North Korea's nuclear site," 23 May 2018 While travelers appear keen to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, warnings from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have pushed Intrepid to rethink some of its itineraries. Ashlea Halpern, Condé Nast Traveler, "Is It Safe to Visit Istanbul Right Now?," 11 May 2018 All three sides seem really keen on making something work. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "Why North Korea and South Korea Are Technically Still at War," 26 Apr. 2018 Then again, fans of Hayley's on Twitter seemed pretty keen on the idea of her becoming the next Bachelorette, though. Allie Gemmill, Teen Vogue, "Hayley Kiyoko's "Dream" Is to Be on an All-Women Version of "The Bachelorette"," 19 Apr. 2018 The Vatican seemed keen to perpetuate this narrative. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The Vatican admits to doctoring photo that bolstered Pope Francis’s conservative cred," 19 Mar. 2018 But that plan has encountered legal challenge, and the Beckham group was never that keen on it anyway. Craig Davis,, "David Beckham, Jorge Mas encounter opposition in latest bid for Miami MLS stadium," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Toffees are not the only club interested in signing the midfielder though, with a number of 'top six' clubs allegedly keen., "Watford Reject Everton's €30m Bid for Star Player as Toffees Look to Bolster Midfield Squad Depth," 13 July 2018 His outstanding form this season has seen him shoot to prominence, with a number of clubs from around Europe keen on acquiring his services., "Real Madrid Closing in on €14m Deal for Highly-Rated Ukraine International Andriy Lunin," 20 June 2018 However, the Eagles are not the only club interested in Loftus-Cheek's services, with fellow Premier League sides West Ham and Everton reportedly keen on signing the 22-year-old., "Crystal Palace Handed Boost in Chase for Chelsea and England Star as New Season Approaches," 6 July 2018 Wilshere has also been linked with a move abroad, with Turkish Super League side Fenerbache reportedly keen on the midfielder's services., "Dean Ashton Urges West Ham Not to Sign International Midfielder Due to Injury Record," 6 July 2018 In the 1980s, Finland also served as convenient base for high-ranking U.S. officials keen to tap the Finns’ knowledge of the Soviet Union, often en route to Moscow. Washington Post, "Finnish neutrality key to Helsinki hosting US-Russia summit," 28 June 2018 With President Trump keen to wipe his hands of the mess in Syria, the Russians can wait out Washington. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Russia stays in the driver’s seat in Syria," 10 July 2018 The country’s breakneck economic expansion created legions of wealthy consumers keen to flaunt their newfound status. Elizabeth Paton, New York Times, "Luxury Sales Are Rebounding in China. Just Not in Stores.," 7 June 2018 The Mirror report that Spurs are set to part ways with the 23-year-old from Versailles, with Ligue 1 sides Bordeaux and Lille both keen on the midfielder's services this summer., "Tottenham Hotspur Ready to Sell Outcast Georges-Kevin N'Koudou as Ligue 1 Clubs Circle," 21 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

It is reported that United are not the only side keen on Kovacic, with Juventus, Inter and Tottenham also reportedly interested in his signature., "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 His voice has the South in it, and the hysterical keen of a chainsaw. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "Herman Melville, Volume I," 27 Mar. 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


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


Irish caoinim I lament, weep


see keen entry 1

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Statistics for keen

Last Updated

1 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for keen

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

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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)

: to make a loud and long cry of sorrow


\ ˈkēn \
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

Comments on keen

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to make amends

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