ken

noun
\ ˈken How to pronounce ken (audio) \

Definition of ken

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the range of perception, understanding, or knowledge abstract words that are beyond the ken of young children— Lois M. Rettie
2a : the range of vision
b : sight, view 'tis double death to drown in ken of shore— William Shakespeare

ken

verb
kenned; kenning

Definition of ken (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 archaic : see
2 chiefly dialectal : recognize
3 chiefly Scotland : know

intransitive verb

chiefly Scotland : know

Understanding Ken

Verb

Ken appeared on the English horizon in the 16th century as a term of measurement of the distance bounding the range of ordinary vision at sea—about 20 miles. British author John Lyly used that sense in 1580 when he wrote, "They are safely come within a ken of Dover." Other 16th-century writers used ken to mean "range of vision" ("Out of ken we were ere the Countesse came from the feast." — Thomas Nashe) or "sight" ("'Tis double death to drown in ken of shore." — Shakespeare). Today, however, ken rarely suggests literal sight. Rather, ken nowadays almost always implies a range of perception, understanding, or knowledge.

Examples of ken in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For that reason, or for reasons beyond the ken of a public-high-school boy from Kansas City, Missouri, about all a male needed in those days in order to be brought along to a débutante party by some legitimate invitee was a tuxedo and a pulse. The New Yorker, 21 Mar. 2022 How pigeons get enough calories to stay alive and healthy until spring is beyond my ken. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Feb. 2022 Many of the items had been disabled by departing U.S. troops or are beyond the ken of Taliban fighters to operate. Tribune News Service, Arkansas Online, 5 Sep. 2021 Many of the items had been disabled by departing U.S. troops or are beyond the ken of Taliban fighters to operate. Nabih Bulos, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Sep. 2021 Many of the items had been disabled by departing U.S. troops or are beyond the ken of Taliban fighters to operate. Tribune News Service, Arkansas Online, 5 Sep. 2021 Many of the items had been disabled by departing U.S. troops or are beyond the ken of Taliban fighters to operate. Nabih Bulos, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Sep. 2021 Many of the items had been disabled by departing U.S. troops or are beyond the ken of Taliban fighters to operate. Tribune News Service, Arkansas Online, 5 Sep. 2021 Many of the items had been disabled by departing U.S. troops or are beyond the ken of Taliban fighters to operate. Nabih Bulos, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Sep. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ken.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ken

Noun

1590, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for ken

Verb

Middle English kennen, from Old English cennan to make known & Old Norse kenna to perceive; both akin to Old English can know — more at can entry 1

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Time Traveler for ken

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

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Dictionary Entries Near ken

kempy

ken

kenaf

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Statistics for ken

Last Updated

3 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ken.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ken. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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