See more synonyms for keen on
verb (used without object)
  1. to wail in lamentation for the dead.
verb (used with object)
  1. to mourn for by or with such keening or wailing: keening his mother while kneeling at her grave.

Origin of keen

1805–15; < Irish caoine (noun), caoin- (v., stem of caoinim) lament
Related formskeen·er, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for keened

Historical Examples of keened

  • And then Brigit came and keened her son with shrieking and with crying.

    Gods and Fighting Men

    Lady I. A. Gregory

  • And they buried him, and put a flag-stone over his grave, and keened him there.

    Gods and Fighting Men

    Lady I. A. Gregory

  • On other rolls, she keened and chanted oddly to herself, eyes closed, and pinched down most of the stock.


    Gordon Randall Garrett

  • Pheola moaned, then keened, and waved her hands in front of her face, as if to ward off a swarm of bees.

    The Right Time

    Walter Bupp

  • From behind the first keened once more that ghastly and smothered escape of suffering, scarcely audible.

    The Gray Mask

    Wadsworth Camp

British Dictionary definitions for keened


  1. eager or enthusiastic
  2. (postpositive foll by on) fond (of); devoted (to)keen on a girl; keen on golf
  3. intellectually acutea keen wit
  4. (of sight, smell, hearing, etc) capable of recognizing fine distinctions
  5. having a sharp cutting edge or point
  6. extremely cold and penetratinga keen wind
  7. intense or stronga keen desire
  8. mainly British extremely low so as to be competitivekeen prices
  9. slang, mainly US and Canadian very good
Derived Formskeenly, adverbkeenness, noun

Word Origin for keen

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


verb (intr)
  1. to lament the dead
  1. a dirge or lament for the dead
Derived Formskeener, 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

Word Origin and History for keened



c.1200, from Old English cene "bold brave," later "clever, wise," from Proto-Germanic *kan- "be able to" (see can). Original prehistoric senses seem to have been both "brave" and "skilled;" cognate with Old Norse kænn "skillful, wise," Middle Dutch coene "bold," Dutch koen, Old High German kuon "pugnacious, strong," German kühn "bold, daring." Sense of "eager" is from mid-14c. The meaning "sharp" is peculiar to English: of blades and edges early 13c., of sounds c.1400, of eyesight c.1720. A popular word of approval in teenager and student slang from c.1900.



"lament," 1811, from Irish caoinim "I weep, wail, lament," from Old Irish coinim "I wail." Related: Keened; keening. As a noun from 1830.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper