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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, skillful, experienced, clever, capable), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵneh₃- (to know). Cognate with Scots keen (lively, brisk, avaricious), Dutch koen (daring, valiant, doughty, courageous), German kühn (bold, daring, audacious, hardy, valiant, venturesome), Danish køn (handsome, pretty), Icelandic kænn (wise, crafty, clever, able). Related to Old English cunnan (to know how to, be able to). More at cunning, can.

Alternative forms[edit]


keen (comparative keener, superlative keenest)

  1. showing a quick and ardent willingness or responsiveness, enthusiastic, eager; interested, intense.
  2. vehement; fierce
    This boy has a keen appetite.
  3. sharp; having a fine edge or point.
  4. acute of mind; sharp; penetrating; having or expressing mental acuteness.
    • c. 1609, William Shakespeare (debated authorship)
      For when we rage, advice is often seen
      By blunting us, to make our wits more keen
    • (Can we date this quote?), Cowper
      Before the keen inquiry of her thought.
  5. bitter; piercing; acrimonious;
    keen satire or sarcasm
    • 1623, William Shakespeare, The Life and Death of King John
      Good father cardinal, cry thou amen to my keen curses.
  6. (of cold, wind, etc.) piercing; penetrating; cutting; sharp
    a keen wind
    the cold is very keen
    • (Can we date this quote?), Goldsmith
      Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes.
  7. (Britain, often with "to" + infinitive or with a prepositional phrase) enthusiastic.
    I'm keen to learn another language.
    I'm keen on learning another language.
    I'm keen on languages.
    I'm keen about learning languages.
    I'm keen for help.
    "Do you want to learn another language?" / "I'm keen."
  8. (US, informal, dated) marvelous.
    I just got this peachy keen new dress.
    • 1985, Douglas Adams, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts (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. (Britain) extremely low as to be competitive.
    keen prices
  10. (obsolete) brave, courageous; bold, audacious.
Usage notes[edit]
The terms below need to be checked and allocated to the definitions (senses) of the headword above. Each term should appear in the sense for which it is appropriate. Use the templates {{syn|en|...}} or {{ant|en|...}} to add them to the appropriate sense(s).
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 sharpen; to make cold.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Thomson.
      Cold winter keens the brightening flood.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Irish caoin (keen, weep, cry).


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[1]:
      [] she 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.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Stuart Howard-Jones (1904-1974), Hibernia. Collected in The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse, 1978.
      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.
    • 2001, Mercedes Lackey, Brightly Burning:
      Satiran, lost in his own grief, shuddered once, then lifted his head to the sky and keened out his loss to the heavens.
  3. (transitive) To mourn.
    • 1996, Virginia Brodine, Seed of the fire, 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]





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