knowledge, understanding, or cognizance; mental perception: an idea beyond one's ken.
range of sight or vision.

verb (used with object), kenned or kent, ken·ning.

verb (used without object), kenned or kent, ken·ning.

British Dialect.
  1. to have knowledge of something.
  2. to understand.

Origin of ken

before 900; Middle English kennen to make known, see, know, Old English cennan to make known, declare; cognate with Old Norse kenna, German kennen; akin to can1
Can be confusedken kin




a male given name, form of Kendall or Kenneth.

Ken. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ken

Contemporary Examples of ken

Historical Examples of ken

  • Life's naked brutalities had theretofore been largely out of his ken.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • It maks my hert sair to ken 'at no guid will your hert get o' his.

    Heather and Snow

    George MacDonald

  • I'm thinkin we dee mair things in faith than we ken—but no eneuch!

    Salted With Fire

    George MacDonald

  • For I hae seen him noo, and ken him noo—the houp o' glory in my hert and my life!

    Salted With Fire

    George MacDonald

  • Ye see I ken sae muckle they ken naething aboot, or they wudna be as they are!

    Heather and Snow

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for ken



range of knowledge or perception (esp in the phrases beyond or in one's ken)

verb kens, kenning, kenned or kent (kɛnt)

Scot and Northern English dialect to know
Scot and Northern English dialect to understand; perceive
(tr) archaic to see

Word Origin for ken

Old English cennan; related to Old Norse kenna to perceive, Old High German kennen to make known; see can 1


abbreviation for

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 ken

"to know," Scottish dialect, from Old English cennan "make known, declare, acknowledge" (in late Old English also "to know"), originally "make to know," causative of cunnan "to become acquainted with, to know" (see can (v.)). Cognate with German kennen, Danish kjende, Swedish känna. Related: Kenned; kenning.


"house where thieves meet," 1560s, vagabonds' slang, probably a shortening of kennel.


"range of sight," 1580s, a nautical abbreviation of kenning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper