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A sharp cleaver has a cutting edge that is keen (etymology 1, sense 3)

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English kene (bold, brave, sharp), from Old English cēne (keen, fierce, bold, brave, warlike, powerful; learned, clever, wise), from Proto-Germanic *kōniz (knowledgeable, skilful, experienced, clever, capable), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵneh₃- (to know). Cognate with Danish køn (handsome, pretty), Dutch kien (smart, wise, able), koen (daring, valiant, doughty, courageous), German kühn (bold, daring, audacious, hardy, valiant, venturesome), Icelandic kænn (wise, crafty, clever, able), Scots keen (lively, brisk; avaricious). Related to Old English cunnan (to know how to, be able to). More at cunning, can.

Alternative forms[edit]


keen (comparative keener or more keen, superlative keenest or most keen)

  1. Often with a prepositional phrase, or with to and an infinitive: showing a quick and ardent responsiveness or willingness; eager, enthusiastic, interested.
    I’m keen about computers.
    I’m keen on you.I like you.
    He is keen for help.
    She’s keen to learn another language.
    “Do you want to go on holiday with me?” / “Yes, I’m keen.”
  2. Fierce, intense, vehement.
    This boy has a keen appetite.
  3. Having a fine edge or point; sharp.
  4. Acute of mind, having or expressing mental acuteness; penetrating, sharp.
  5. Acrimonious, bitter, piercing.
    keen satire or sarcasm
  6. Of cold, wind, etc.: cutting, penetrating, piercing, sharp.
    a keen wind
    the cold is very keen
  7. (Britain) Extremely low as to be competitive.
    keen prices
  8. (US, informal, dated) Marvelous.
    I just got this peachy keen new dress.
    • 1985, Douglas Adams, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts, New York, N.Y.: Harmony Books, ISBN 978-0-517-55950-5, page 82:
      Well our hosts here attacked us with a fantastic Dismodulating Anti Phase stun ray and then invited us to this amazingly keen meal by way of making it up to us.
  9. (obsolete) Brave, courageous; audacious, bold.
Usage notes[edit]

Keen is often used to create compounds, the meaning of most of them being fairly obvious, for example, keen-edged, keen-eyed, keen-sighted, keen-witted, etc.

Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


keen (third-person singular simple present keens, present participle keening, simple past and past participle keened)

  1. (transitive, rare) To make cold, to sharpen.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Irish caoin (to cry, weep; to keen).


keen (plural keens)

  1. A prolonged wail for a deceased person.
    • 1922, Michael Arlen, “3/5/1”, in “Piracy”: A Romantic Chronicle of These Days, London: W[illiam] Collins Sons & Co., OCLC 23842407, OL 1519647W:
      [S]he went so swiftly that he could only follow her to the door. The large shape of the car swallowed her up; and the car twisted softly around the little drive and away to the London road. Minutes later he heard its Klaxon, just one sharp keen, like the harsh cry of a sea-bird.


keen (third-person singular simple present keens, present participle keening, simple past and past participle keened)

  1. (intransitive) To utter a keen.
    • 20th century, Stuart Howard-Jones (1904–1974), “Hibernia”, in Kingsley Amis, comp., The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1978, ISBN 978-0-19-211862-2, page 243:
      Last night he had put down too much Potheen / (A vulgar blend of Methyl and Benzene) / That, at some Wake, he might the better keen. / (Keen—meaning 'brisk'? Nay, here the Language warps: / 'Tis singing bawdy Ballads to a Corpse.)
  2. (transitive) To utter with a loud wailing voice or wordless cry.
  3. (transitive) To mourn.
    • 1996, Virginia Warner Brodine, Seed of the Fire, New York, N.Y.: International Publishers, ISBN 978-0-7178-0721-5, page 28:
      I keened my Gran, I keened my babies, but then my words poured out of my grief. I don't have the full heart like that for Owen, sorry as I am for his goin. Without the heavy grief on me I can maybe think of the words easier.
Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ William Langland; George Economou, transl. (1996), “Passus XVI”, in William Langland’s Piers Plowman: The C Version: A Verse Translation (Middle Ages Series), Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 978-0-8122-3323-0, page 143.





keen m, n

  1. no, not any, not a


Luxembourgish negative articles
masculine feminine neuter plural
nom./acc. keen keng keen keng
dative kengem kenger kengem kengen




  1. bring