[ keen ]
/ kin /
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See synonyms for: keen / keened / keener / keenest on Thesaurus.com

adjective, keen·er, keen·est.
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Origin of keen

First recorded before 900; 1930–35 for def. 8; Middle English kene, Old English cēne; cognate with German kühn, Old High German chuoni “bold,” Old Norse kœnn “wise, skillful”

synonym study for keen

1, 4. See sharp. 5. See avid.


keen·ly, adverbkeen·ness, noun

Other definitions for keen (2 of 2)

[ keen ]
/ kin /

a wailing lament for the dead.
verb (used without object)
to wail in lamentation for the dead.
verb (used with object)
to mourn for by or with such keening or wailing: keening his mother while kneeling at her grave.

Origin of keen

First recorded in 1780–90 for the verb; from Irish caoin-, stem of caoinim “(I) lament”; noun derivative of the verb


keener, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does keen mean?

Keen commonly means eager, interested, or enthusiastic. This sense of the word is often followed by about or on and the particular interest, as in He’s very keen on music. 

More generally, keen means sharp, intense, or strong. It can be used to mean sharp in a literal way, as in a keen blade. It can also be used in several figurative ways. A keen sense of smell is one that’s very strong and perceptive. A keen intellect is one that’s sharp in the sense of being mentally strong. A keen desire is an intense one. A keen satire and a keen wind are both piercing and biting—they both sting.

The word keen can also be used as a slang term meaning wonderful or splendid, and this is how it’s used in the phrase peachy keen, which is used as an informal and playful way to describe something as excellent or wonderful.

Example: He showed keen jealousy over my keen knife.

Where does keen come from?

The first records of the word keen in English come from before 900. It comes from the Old English word cēne and is related to the Old Norse kœnn, meaning “wise, skillful.” Keen wasn’t used in a slang way to mean “excellent” until the 1900s.

Keen can be used in a number of different ways, but most of them involve enthusiasm, intensity, or (literal or figurative) sharpness. When keen is used to describe something sharp—like a knife or a mind—its opposite can be dull in either sense of the word. If you’re keen to do something, it means you’re excited about it—you can’t wait. If you’re not keen on something, it means you’re not interested in it or enthusiastic about it.

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What are some other forms related to keen?

  • keenly (adverb)
  • keenness (noun)

What are some synonyms for keen?

What are some words that share a root or word element with keen

What are some words that often get used in discussing keen?

How is keen used in real life?

Keen can be used in many different contexts. It’s more commonly used in the U.K. than the U.S.



Try using keen!

Which of the following things could be described as keen?

A. a sharp blade
B. a strong sense of hearing
C. an enthusiastic person
D. all of the above

How to use keen in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for keen (1 of 2)

/ (kiːn) /


Derived forms of keen

keenly, adverbkeenness, noun

Word Origin for keen

Old English cēne; related to Old High German kuoni brave, Old Norse koenn wise; see can 1, know

British Dictionary definitions for keen (2 of 2)

/ (kiːn) /

verb (intr)
to lament the dead
a dirge or lament for the dead

Derived forms of keen

keener, noun

Word Origin for keen

C19: from Irish Gaelic caoine, from Old Irish coīnim I wail
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