\ 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

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The Bowlen trustees, then, are tasked with carrying out their fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust – Pat Bowlen's seven children – while also recognizing that the league is keeping a keen eye on the complexion of the bidding groups. Parker Gabriel, USA TODAY, 9 May 2022 As North America’s largest documentary film festival, conference and market, Hot Docs strives to forge essential relationships that lead to production opportunities for documentary filmmakers with a keen eye on the global market. Holly Jones, Variety, 29 Apr. 2022 Both share a deep passion for food and a keen eye for design. New York Times, 28 Apr. 2022 Hader, a passionate cinephile with a keen eye for tragicomic details and action choreography, directed the first two episodes of the new season. NBC News, 21 Apr. 2022 That's the philosophy behind community fridges, a growing movement of mutual aid that supports neighborhoods in need while tackling food waste and turning a keen eye to the larger causes of food insecurity. Leah Abucayan, CNN, 15 Apr. 2022 Reverend L, a visitor from Hong Kong who requests anonymity, is a keen observer of church developments at home. Nina Shea, National Review, 20 Mar. 2022 For Brosnan, those comments from a keen observer of the scene are a sign the Newbury Park program has truly arrived. John Ortega, Los Angeles Times, 11 Mar. 2022 Like many who’ve spent their lives at sea, Bailey is a keen observer of the ocean, attuned to its subtle patterns and mercurial moods. Julia Rosen, Smithsonian Magazine, 8 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Meanwhile, savvy shoppers keen on collecting unique mementos won't want to miss Sonya's, home of the original St. Croix hook bracelet. Travel + Leisure, 12 May 2022 Poland, conscious of its debt to the US and keen to build stronger ties to the West, sent troops to America's early 21st-century wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- even as many of Washington's older allies balked at joining the latter conflict. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 25 Mar. 2022 Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island has long attracted wildlife enthusiasts keen on seeing Canada's Big Five: whales, bears, sea lions, sea otters, and bald eagles. Julia Eskins, Travel + Leisure, 16 Feb. 2022 Still, with key agenda items still hanging in the balance and officials keen on securing more progress on Covid-19 and the economy, there's no indication members of Biden's senior team are on their way out. Phil Mattingly, CNN, 14 Feb. 2022 Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are Molly and Amy, cautious bookworms keen to make the most of their final night before graduation. Radhika Seth, Vogue, 12 Feb. 2022 Those keen on more spirits can partake of more than a dozen American whiskeys among other traditional southern cocktails such as mint juleps and the Mississippi Moonlight, made with blackberry moonshine, blackberries and lemonade. Richard Tribou,, 21 Jan. 2022 Others described her as someone who impressed them with her confidence, sharp intellect and keen listening and problem-solving skills. New York Times, 15 Dec. 2021 And the Biltmore Mayfair, after a complete transformation pre-pandemic, is finally able to show off their new programming, over-the-top suites, and culinary offerings to the tourists keen on discovering an emerging luxury hotspot. Maya Kachroo-levine, Travel + Leisure, 1 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For those keen to get out and explore, options range from shopping for local artisan goods, taking a cooking class or dropping anchor in one cove all day to dive and fish. Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, 22 Apr. 2022 In this new video-first era, rapid data transmission, a robust and reliable service infrastructure and state-of-the-art security are essential for any business keen to capitalize on the vast potential of this dynamic medium. Forbes, 10 Dec. 2021 His other persona -- that of imperialist dictator keen to rebuild a Russian Empire -- is on full display. James Longman, ABC News, 24 Feb. 2022 The entry-level Cadillac subcompact doesn't disappoint in its sleek styling and confident handling, making this sport vehicle ideal for those keen on luxury, but with a tighter budget. Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping, 19 Mar. 2022 Beyond the dreamy shores and top-notch snorkeling, Siesta Key is known as a shelling capital for those keen on finding gorgeous seashells. Jessica Poitevien, Travel + Leisure, 7 Mar. 2022 Vacation rentals remain strong, with Americans who ditched hotels during the pandemic remaining keen to rent a standalone property. Mark Ellwood, Robb Report, 2 Mar. 2022 Eventually, Halberstad and her team settled on a type of sticky silicon, with her keen to note that no poop — or anything for that matter — was added in post-production. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Feb. 2022 Inside the stadium, Ms. Obama got down on the floor to perform a few push-ups, and Archbishop Tutu, seeming keen to join in, dropped to the floor and did the same. New York Times, 26 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Keen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for keen


\ 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, Harry Potter and the 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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