1 a : the range of vision
b : sight, view
2 : the range of perception, understanding, or knowledge
Did You Know?
"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 comprehension, understanding, or knowledge.
The author advised the aspiring writers in the crowd to develop an authoritative voice by sticking to subjects within their ken.
"[Yemeni President Ali Abdullah] Saleh and his military-based regime are steering the country into a demographic and political minefield, and it's already far beyond their ken to steer out of it." -- From an article by Ellen Knickmeyer in Foreign Policy, February 10, 2011
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