Pronunciation Adjective

keen (comparative keener, superlative keenest)

  1. (chiefly, Commonwealth) Often with a prepositional phrase, or with to and an infinitive: showing a quick#Adjective|quick and ardent responsiveness or willingness; eager, enthusiastic, interested.
    I’m keen on computers.
    I’m keen on you.
    She’s keen to learn another language.
    “Do you want to go on holiday with me?” / “Yes, I’m keen.”
    • 2000, Jane Green, Bookends, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0-14-027652-7; republished as Bookends: A Novel, trade paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Broadway Books, 2003, ISBN 978-0-7679-0781-1, page 304:
      In fact, she doesn't mention the fact that I've obviously been avoiding her, just sounds genuinely thrilled to hear from me, and as soon as I mention getting together she suggests Monday, which is rather keen, even for Portia.
  2. Fierce, intense, vehement.
    This boy has a keen appetite.
    • circa 1370–1390 William Langland, Piers Plowman; published as “Passus XVII”, in Walter W[illiam] Skeat, editor, The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman, together with the Vita de Dowel, Dobet, et Dobest, Secundum Wit et Resoun, by William Langland (about 1362–1393 A.D.): Edited from Numerous Manuscripts, with Prefaces, Notes, and a Glossary, [...] In Four Parts, part III (Langland’s Vision of Piers the Plowman, the Whitaker Text, or Text C; Richard the Bedeles; The Crowned King), London: Published for the Early English Text Society, by N[icholas] Trübner & Co., 57 & 59, Ludgate Hill, 1873, OCLC 270097042, page 285 ↗, lines 82–85:
      For men knoweþ þat couetise · is of ful kene wil, / And haþ hondes and armes · of a long lengthe, / And pourte is a pety þyng · apereþ nat to hus nauele; / A loueliche laik was hit neuere · by-twyne a long and a short.
      For men know well that Covetousness has a keen will / And a very long reach of hands and arms / And Poverty's just a tiny thing, doesn't even reach his navel, / And a good bout was never between tall and short.
  3. Having a fine#Adjective|fine edge#Noun|edge or point#Noun|point; sharp#Adjective|sharp.
    • circa 1387–1400 Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Knightes Tale” from The Canterbury Tales; published in A Complete Edition of the Poets of Great Britain, volume I (Containing Chaucer, Surrey, Wyatt & Sackville), London: Printed for Iohn & Arthur Arch, 23, Gracechurch Street; Edinburgh: Bell & Bradfute & I. Mundell & Co., [1795], OCLC 490490936, page 17, column 2 ↗:
      Before hire [Venus] ſtood hire ſone Cupido, / Upon his ſhoulders winges he had two, / And blind he was, as is often ſene; / A bow he bare and arwes bright and kene.
  4. Acute of mind#Noun|mind, having or expressing mental acuteness; penetrating#Adjective|penetrating, sharp.
    • 1609, William Shakespeare, “A Louers Complaint”, in Shake-speares Sonnets. Neuer before Imprinted, London: By G[eorge] Eld for T[homas] T[horpe] and are to be sold by William Aspley, OCLC 216596634 ↗:
      For when we rage, advice#English|aduiſe is often ſeene / By blunting vs to make our wits more keene.
  5. Acrimonious, bitter#Adjective|bitter, piercing#Adjective|piercing.
    keen satire or sarcasm
  6. Of cold, wind, etc.: cutting#Adjective|cutting, penetrating#Adjective|penetrating, piercing, sharp.
    a keen wind
    the cold is very keen
    • 1764 December 19 (indicated as 1765), Oliver Goldsmith, The Traveller, or a Prospect of Society. A Poem. Inscribed to the Rev. Henry Goldsmith, London: Printed for J[ohn] Newbery, OCLC 723180797; 3rd edition, London: Printed for J. Newbury,sic Newbery in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1765, OCLC 680758043, page 10 ↗:
      Chearful at morn he wakes from ſhort repoſe, / Breaſts the keen air, and carolls as he goes; […]
  7. (Britain) Of prices, extremely low#Adjective|low as to be competitive.
  8. (US, informal, dated) Marvelous.
    I just got this peachy keen new dress.
  9. (obsolete) Brave, courageous; audacious, bold.
Synonyms Translations Translations Translations
  • Russian: прони́зывающий
  • Spanish: cortante

keen (keens, present participle keening; past and past participle keened)

  1. (transitive, rare) To make cold#Adjective|cold, to sharpen.
    • 1730, James Thomson, “Summer”, in The Seasons, A Hymn, A Poem to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton, and Britannia, a Poem, London, Printed for J. Millan, near Whitehall; and A[ndrew] Millar, in the Strand, OCLC 965786799; republished in The Works of James Thomson. With His Last Corrections and Improvements. In Four Volumes, volume I, London: Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand, 1766, OCLC 639856222, page 93 ↗, lines 1256–1259:
      smallcaps This is the pureſt exerciſe of health, / The kind refreſher of the ſummer-heats; / Nor, when cold smallcaps Winter keens the brightening flood, / Would I weak-ſhivering linger on the brink.

keen (plural keens)

  1. A prolonged#Adjective|prolonged wail#Noun|wail for a deceased person.

keen (keens, present participle keening; past and past participle keened)

  1. (intransitive) To utter#Verb|utter a keen.
    • 20th century, Stuart Howard-Jones (1904–1974), “Hibernia”, in Kingsley Amis, comp., The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1978, ISBN 978-0-19-211862-2, page 243 ↗:
      Last night he had put down too much Potheen / (A vulgar blend of Methyl and Benzene) / That, at some Wake, he might the better keen. / (Keen—meaning 'brisk'? Nay, here the Language warps: / 'Tis singing bawdy Ballads to a Corpse.)
  2. (transitive) To utter with a loud wailing voice#Noun|voice or wordless cry#Noun|cry.
  3. (transitive) To mourn#Verb|mourn.
Related terms
Proper noun
  1. Surname

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