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  1. a part of the face of a type projecting beyond the body or shank, as in certain italic letters.
verb (used with object)
  1. to form or furnish with a kern, as a type or letter.
  2. to remove a portion of space between (adjacent letters) in preparation for printing.

Origin of kern1

1675–85; < French carne corner of type ≪ Latin cardin- (stem of cardō) hinge


noun Engineering.
  1. the central area of any horizontal section of a wall, column, etc., within which the resultant forces of all compressive loads must pass if there is to be only compression at that point.

Origin of kern2

< German Kern kernel; see kern4


or kerne

noun Archaic.
  1. a band of lightly armed foot soldiers of ancient Ireland.
  2. (in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands) a soldier.
  3. an Irish peasant, especially a crude or boorish one.

Origin of kern3

1325–75; Middle English kerne < Irish ceithern band of foot soldiers; cf. cateran


[kurn]British Dialect
verb (used without object)
  1. (of a tree or plant) to produce or form kernels, hard grain, or seed.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to granulate, especially to granulate salt.
  2. to cover with crystalline grains of salt; salt (meat).
  1. Obsolete. a kernel, as of a nut; a grain, as of sand or wheat.

Origin of kern4

1275–1325; Middle English kirnen, kerne (v.); akin to kirnelen to develop into seed; see kernel


verb (used with or without object), noun Scot. and North England.
  1. churn.


noun Scot. and North England.
  1. kirn2.


  1. Jerome (David),1885–1945, U.S. composer.
  2. a river in E California, in the Sierra Nevada, flowing S and SW to San Joaquin Valley. 155 miles (249 km) long.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for kern

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • That was a whimsical exaggeration of what perhaps had a kern of truth in it.

    Sundry Accounts

    Irvin S. Cobb

  • Besides the Kern Canyon there are two which must rank with Yosemite.

    The Book of the National Parks

    Robert Sterling Yard

  • A squad of this force is then hurried forward to the Kern house.

  • "I got as far as the Kern River, but they turned me back," he said between breaths as he drank.

    The Octopus

    Frank Norris

  • The enemy had not less than a dozen machine-guns in and in front of the Kern Redoubt.


    Edward G. D. Liveing

British Dictionary definitions for kern



  1. the part of the character on a piece of printer's type that projects beyond the body
  1. (tr) to furnish (a typeface) with a kern

Word Origin

C17: from French carne corner of type, projecting angle, ultimately from Latin cardō hinge


  1. a lightly armed foot soldier in medieval Ireland or Scotland
  2. a troop of such soldiers
  3. archaic a loutish peasant

Word Origin

C14: from Middle Irish cethern band of foot soldiers, from cath battle


  1. engineering the central area of a wall, column, etc, through which all compressive forces pass

Word Origin

from German Kern core, heart


  1. Jerome (David). 1885–1945, US composer of musical comedies, esp Show Boat (1927)
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 kern


1680s, "part of a metal type projecting beyond the body," as the head of an -f- or the tail of a -j-, from French carne "projecting angle, quill of a pen," from Latin cardinem "hinge."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper