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  1. Also called Fenland. a marshy lowland region in E England, S of the Wash: partly drained and channeled since the 17th century.


  1. low land covered wholly or partially with water; boggy land; a marsh.
  2. the Fens, a marshy region W and S of The Wash, in E England.

Origin of fen1

before 900; Middle English, Old English; cognate with Old Norse fen quagmire, Gothic fani mud, Dutch ven, German Fenn fen, bog


noun, plural fen.
  1. an aluminum coin and monetary unit of the People's Republic of China, the hundredth part of a yuan or the tenth part of a jiao.

Origin of fen2

First recorded in 1905–10, fen is from the Chinese word fēn
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for fens

Historical Examples

  • The shores of its creeks and fens are tenanted by minks and muskrats.

    The Works of Whittier, Volume V (of VII)

    John Greenleaf Whittier

  • Fens, like deserts, are large things very apt to be mislaid.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • Fortune declared against him, and he retreated, like some Hereward, to the fens.

  • The low hills were not yet cleared, nor the fens and the wolds trimmed and enclosed.


    Andrew Lang

  • The whole country was now, in fact, a vast expanse of marshes and fens.


    Jacob Abbott

British Dictionary definitions for fens


pl n
  1. the Fens a flat low-lying area of E England, west and south of the Wash: consisted of marshes until reclaimed in the 17th to 19th centuries


  1. low-lying flat land that is marshy or artificially drained

Word Origin

Old English fenn; related to Old High German fenna, Old Norse fen, Gothic fani clay, Sanskrit panka mud


noun plural fen
  1. a monetary unit of the People's Republic of China, worth one hundredth of a yuan

Word Origin

from Mandarin Chinese
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for fens



Old English fenn "mud, mire, dirt; fen, marsh, moor," from Proto-Germanic *fanjam- (cf. Old Saxon feni, Old Frisian fenne, Middle Dutch venne, Dutch veen, Old High German fenna, German Fenn "marsh," Old Norse fen, Gothic fani "mud"), from PIE *pen- "swamp" (cf. Gaulish anam "water," Sanskrit pankah "bog, marsh, mud," Old Prussian pannean "swampland"). Italian and Spanish fango, Old French fanc, French fange "mud" are loan-words from Germanic. The native Latin word was limus or lutum.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper