1

ken

noun \ ˈken \

Definition of ken

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

ken was our Word of the Day on 05/29/2016. Hear the podcast!

Recent Examples of ken from the Web

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

1590


2

ken

verb

Definition of ken

kenned; kenning
transitive verb
1 archaic :see
2 chiefly dialectal :recognize
3 chiefly Scotland :know
intransitive verb
chiefly Scotland :know

Understanding ken

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.

Origin and Etymology of ken

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




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