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[keen] /kin/
adjective, keener, keenest.
finely sharpened, as an edge; so shaped as to cut or pierce substances readily:
a keen razor.
sharp, piercing, or biting:
a keen wind; keen satire.
characterized by strength and distinctness of perception; extremely sensitive or responsive:
keen eyes; keen ears.
having or showing great mental penetration or acumen:
keen reasoning; a keen mind.
animated by or showing strong feeling or desire:
keen competition.
intense, as feeling or desire:
keen ambition; keen jealousy.
eager; interested; enthusiastic (often followed by about, on, etc., or an infinitive):
She is really keen on going swimming.
Slang. great; wonderful; marvelous.
Origin of keen1
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
Related forms
keenly, adverb
keenness, noun
1, 4. See sharp. 2. cutting, bitter, caustic. 3. piercing, penetrating, acute. 4. discerning, acute, astute, sagacious, shrewd, clever. 5. See avid. 7. earnest, fervid.
1, 3, 4. dull. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for keenness
Historical Examples
  • His eyes had already the keenness of a falcon, and so straight and strong he grew that the heart of King Alf was filled with joy.

    Stories from Northern Myths Emilie Kip Baker
  • Of his keenness of observation take the following illustration.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • He opened up his heart to Martin, showed with what keenness and with what enormous planning he had made the store.

    Martin Eden Jack London
  • A slender toque brought out the keenness in the oval of her face.

    Bride of the Mistletoe James Lane Allen
  • Page 175: "observavation" changed to "observation" (In old bears curiosity is accompanied with a keenness of observation).

    The Grizzly Enos A. Mills
  • She set too high value upon her acumen, upon the keenness of her instincts.

    The Lion's Skin Rafael Sabatini
  • But afterwards he continued to look at me in silence with a keenness and curiosity I did not understand.

    A Gentleman of France Stanley Weyman
  • But he did not; nor did Bale, though the servant's face betrayed the keenness of his anxiety.

    The Wild Geese Stanley John Weyman
  • His portrait exhibits a face in which quickness and keenness of intellect are strongly marked.

    Famous Indian Chiefs Charles H. L. Johnston
  • The Jew had his racial respect for keenness and clean-cut ability.

    The Winning Clue James Hay, Jr.
British Dictionary definitions for keenness


eager or enthusiastic
(postpositive) foll by on. fond (of); devoted (to): keen on a girl, keen on golf
intellectually acute: a keen wit
(of sight, smell, hearing, etc) capable of recognizing fine distinctions
having a sharp cutting edge or point
extremely cold and penetrating: a keen wind
intense or strong: a keen desire
(mainly Brit) extremely low so as to be competitive: keen prices
(slang, mainly US & Canadian) very good
Derived Forms
keenly, adverb
keenness, noun
Word Origin
Old English cēne; related to Old High German kuoni brave, Old Norse koenn wise; see can1, know


verb (intransitive)
to lament the dead
a dirge or lament for the dead
Derived Forms
keener, noun
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for keenness

1520s, from keen (adj.) + -ness.



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
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Slang definitions & phrases for keenness



Excellent; wonderful; neat: I think she's a keen kid/ ''Keen?'' Blanche said. ''I haven't heard that word in 20 years'' (1900+ Teenagers & students)

Related Terms


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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