from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Having a fine, sharp cutting edge or point.
  • adj. Having or marked by intellectual quickness and acuity. See Synonyms at sharp.
  • adj. Acutely sensitive: a keen ear.
  • adj. Sharp; vivid; strong: "His entire body hungered for keen sensation, something exciting” ( Richard Wright).
  • adj. Intense; piercing: a keen wind.
  • adj. Pungent; acrid: A keen smell of skunk was left behind.
  • adj. Ardent; enthusiastic: a keen chess player.
  • adj. Eagerly desirous: keen on going to Europe in the spring.
  • adj. Slang Great; splendid; fine: What a keen day!
  • n. A loud, wailing lament for the dead.
  • intransitive v. To wail in lamentation, especially for the dead. See Synonyms at cry.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. showing a quick and ardent willingness or responsiveness, enthusiastic, eager; interested, intense.
  • adj. vehement; fierce; as, a keen appetite.
  • adj. sharp; having a fine edge or point.
  • adj. acute of mind; sharp; penetrating; having or expressing mental acuteness.
  • adj. bitter; piercing; acrimonious; cutting; stinging; severe; as, keen satire or sarcasm.
  • adj. piercing; penetrating; cutting; sharp; -- applied to cold, wind, etc,; as, a keen wind; the cold is very keen.
  • adj. Enthusiastic
  • adj. Marvelous.
  • adj. extremely low as to be competitive.
  • adj. brave, courageous; bold, audacious.
  • v. To sharpen; to make cold.
  • n. A prolonged wail for a deceased person.
  • v. To utter a keen.
  • v. To utter with a loud wailing voice or wordless cry.
  • v. To mourn.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Sharp; having a fine edge or point.
  • adj. Acute of mind; sharp; penetrating; having or expressing mental acuteness
  • adj. Bitter; piercing; acrimonious; cutting; stinging; severe.
  • adj. Piercing; penetrating; cutting; sharp; -- applied to cold, wind, etc.
  • adj. Eager; vehement; fierce.
  • adj. Wonderful; delightful; marvelous.
  • n. A prolonged wail for a deceased person. Cf. coranach.
  • intransitive v. To wail as a keener does.
  • transitive v. To sharpen; to make cold.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Bold; daring; brave; active: applied to men.
  • Grim; fierce; savage; rapacious: applied to wild animals.
  • Vehement; earnest; eager; ardent; fierce; animated by or showing strong feeling or desire: as, a keen fighter; to be keen at a bargain.
  • Such as to cut or penetrate easily; having a very sharp point or edge; sharp; acute: as, a keen edge.
  • Sharp or irritating to the body or the mind; acutely harsh or painful; biting; stinging; tingling.
  • Having a cutting or incisive character or effect; penetrating; vigorous; energetic; vivid; intense: as, keen eyes; a keen look; a keen rebuke; keen-witted.
  • Having or manifesting great mental acuteness; characterized by great quickness or penetration of thought; sharply perceptive: as, a keen logician or debater; keen insight.
  • To make keen or sharp; sharpen.
  • To chap, as the hands.
  • To make a loud lamentation over the dead; lament; wail.
  • To wail over any loss, or in anticipation of loss.
  • n. A loud lamentation made over the dead; a wailing.
  • n. The angle to which the wire tooth of card-clothing is bent between the foundation material and the point.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. having a sharp cutting edge or point
  • v. express grief verbally
  • adj. painful as if caused by a sharp instrument
  • n. a funeral lament sung with loud wailing
  • adj. very good
  • adj. having or demonstrating ability to recognize or draw fine distinctions
  • adj. intense or sharp


Middle English kene, from Old English cēne, brave.
From Irish Gaelic caoineadh, from caoninim, I lament, from Old Irish caínim, coínim, perhaps of Brittonic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English kene ("bold, brave, sharp"), from Old English cēne ("keen, fierce, bold, brave, warlike, powerful, learned, clever, wise"), from Proto-Germanic *kōniz (“knowledgeable, skillful, experienced, clever, capable”), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵenə-, *ǵnō- (“to know”). Cognate with Scots keen ("lively, brisk, avaricious"), Dutch koen ("daring, valiant, doughty, courageous"), German kühn ("bold, daring, audacious, hardy, valiant, venturesome"), Danish køn ("handsome, pretty"), Icelandic kænn ("wise, crafty, clever, able"). Related to Old English cunnan ("to know how to, be able to"). More at cunning, can. (Wiktionary)
From Irish caoin ("keen, weep, cry"). (Wiktionary)


  • At the same time she had not keen, she had only absorbing feelings of her rights; there was nothing _keen_ in lady Ann; neither sense nor desire, neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow, neither love nor hate.

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  • Japan's prime minister is expressing what he calls keen remorse and heartfelt apologies for his country's role in World War II.

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  • It was still raining in torrents after lunch, and Thomas, who is not what I call keen about golf, preferred to remain before the fire.

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  • Thomas, who is not what I call keen about golf, preferred to remain before the fire.

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  • "They've got what they call a keen sense of humour, you know."

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  • We remain keen to support the successful introduction of HD services on the DTT platform and are willing to consider a further round of consultation on the licence amendment if you could provide more information and evidence in the following three areas:

    BBC's outrageous plan to put DRM on TV broadcasts shot down in flames -- thanks to you! - Boing Boing

  • My first surprise was to find him described as a keen, all-round sportsman.

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  • The party in keen to get Lib Dems blogging but it takes courage.

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  • So keen is it to draw a parallel between the two periods that it shows a black-and-white photograph of a US tank in Saigon, artfully juxtaposed with a contemporary picture of an American tank in Baghdad.

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  • I have a certain keen sense of liberation, these days.

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  • c_b: Yes, modulo regional differences. It seems to me that the match would be closest in Ulster, whereas in Munster we would pronounce it closer to "queen".

    October 18, 2007

  • Sionnach, is caoineadh pronounced the same as the English word keen?

    October 18, 2007

  • the verb keen, meaning to wail as if in mourning, derives from the Irish word 'caoineadh'

    February 19, 2007