\ 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 New York Jets have noticed and likely will take a keen interest in this matchup. Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY, "Can Ohio State stop Trevor Lawrence and Clemson this time in Sugar Bowl?," 20 Dec. 2020 But Randazzo also was widely seen as an expert in Ohio energy law, an arcane subject that’s of keen interest to utilities and others in a small group of key players, including environmentalists and groups representing electricity customers. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, "FBI raid brings scrutiny on obscure but powerful Ohio energy regulator," 6 Dec. 2020 Shopping readers have shown a keen interest in Beats by Dre, and the wireless Solo Pro sports cushiony earpads and offer up to 40 hours of continuous use. Nicole Saunders, NBC News, "Best Apple sales and deals: Apple Watch, AirPods, iPhones and more," 2 Dec. 2020 Theodore has a biology degree and has taken a keen interest in water quality impacts from past mining in the Cottonwood canyons. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Now a supermajority on County Council, Salt Lake GOP shares priorities for year ahead," 28 Nov. 2020 For a long time, there wasn’t a keen interest in preserving that part of Williamsburg’s history. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "The Quest to Unearth One of America’s Oldest Black Churches," 26 Nov. 2020 Why did Fieri take a keen interest in Los Bocados' gas-station grub? Phillip Valys, sun-sentinel.com, "Guy Fieri and 'DDD’ should just name South Florida their favorite Flavortown already," 12 Nov. 2020 The Emirati investors also showed keen interest in a sensor presented by Yehonatan Ben Hamozeg, the founder of Agrint, an agriculture intelligence company. Dan Balilty, New York Times, "‘It’s Like Falling in Love’: Israeli Entrepreneurs Welcomed in Dubai," 7 Nov. 2020 At first, Johnston appeared to take a keen interest in Reck's research, and the two forged an unusual friendship. Maxine Joselow, Scientific American, "A Woman Warned GM about Warming, But Men Didn’t Listen," 4 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Never Trumpers itching to reclaim their party from Trumpism, or other conservative forces keen on building a platform around principles rather than around an individual, could gain enough power to create their own political base. The New Yorker, "The Mail," 23 Nov. 2020 The selection is more notable for its colorful paintings of commonplace beauty, rendered with expressionist flair and keen graphic sense. Washington Post, "In the galleries: Contemplations on the memory of personal spaces," 13 Nov. 2020 Fortune has smiled upon you and, by happenstance or keen yearning and struggle, the world is, at last, bestowing its graces upon you? Corey Seymour, Vogue, "Forget About Trump’s Lawsuits—Take the Win and Let Yourself Exhale," 7 Nov. 2020 Not keen on following in their footsteps, 23-year old Lena took a boarding house room to attend business school in Portland. Michael Alberty | For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "A spirited October evening with Argyle Winery’s resident ghost," 27 Oct. 2020 The Dogman had a clear memory of the event because Sudimack had called him from a gas station outside Allentown to keen over the loss of his future. Michael Deagler, Harper's Magazine, "New Poets," 27 Oct. 2020 As the Age of Enlightenment took hold, this gruesome solution started to look like superstitious nonsense, especially to Catholic and Protestant bishops keen to move with the times—and away from witch hunts. Karina Wilson, Smithsonian Magazine, "Decomposing Bodies in the 1720s Gave Birth to the First Vampire Panic," 23 Oct. 2020 Investment bankers keen to win lucrative assignments have a new pitch for U.S. corporate owners: hire us to sell your company now or pay at least twice as much in taxes if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has his way. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Note: Google Under Attack, the Fed Frets about Risk," 22 Oct. 2020 For travelers keen on a tropical holiday at record-low prices this winter, here are the islands making the strongest cases for visitors to return — and all the fine print to think about. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "Airlines really want you to fly this winter, and these Caribbean islands are ready for tourists," 5 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 After several days of peaceful protests turning into violence, police, on June 2, 2020, enforced a curfew on a group keen to violate it. M.l. Elrick, Detroit Free Press, "Protesters gather in Detroit for public tribunal of police," 20 June 2020 After several days of peaceful protests turning into violence, police, on June 2, 2020, enforced a curfew on a group keen to violate it. M.l. Elrick, Detroit Free Press, "Protesters gather in Detroit for public tribunal of police," 20 June 2020 After several days of peaceful protests turning into violence, police, on June 2, 2020, enforced a curfew on a group keen to violate it. M.l. Elrick, Detroit Free Press, "Protesters gather in Detroit for public tribunal of police," 20 June 2020 After several days of peaceful protests turning into violence, police, on June 2, 2020, enforced a curfew on a group keen to violate it. M.l. Elrick, Detroit Free Press, "Protesters gather in Detroit for public tribunal of police," 20 June 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

18 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Keen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/keen. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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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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Comments on keen

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