Main definitions of keen in English

: keen1keen2

keen1

adjective

  • 1British Having or showing eagerness or enthusiasm.

    ‘a keen gardener’
    ‘John was keen to help’
    • ‘The band were keen to promote some of their newer singles but snuck them in between old favourites to keep the crowd satisfied.’
    • ‘‘I've given up my allotment and the school job,’ said Mick, who is a keen gardener.’
    • ‘The record was mostly recorded in a residential studio, as the band were keen to distance themselves from the distractions of everyday life.’
    • ‘As well as being a keen rambler, Mrs Kirby, who lived on her own following the death of her husband, liked to stay fit and was also a keen gardener.’
    • ‘Mr Henry is also a computer enthusiast and a keen motorcyclist.’
    • ‘The keen gardener, who has had an allotment for nearly seven years, said his plot had vegetables ripped up, tools thrown around and specialist plant frames smashed.’
    • ‘The competition is not just for keen gardeners.’
    • ‘Since we were keen to try their range of fish, we avoided ordering directly from the menu and instead asked for a special platter to be made up.’
    • ‘They are keen to receive some tips on toilet training for Emily, who's three.’
    • ‘He was very keen and enthusiastic about learning.’
    • ‘By all accounts it was the usual huge success, with keen gardeners coming from all around to stock up on plants and gardening paraphernalia.’
    • ‘Many of you reading this will know that I am a keen player of that fine old brass instrument, the French Horn.’
    • ‘Jamie, who has been a keen rally enthusiast since his early teens, is said to be making good progress despite the extensive injuries he sustained.’
    • ‘I asked him why he thinks Kiwis are so keen for life on the edge.’
    • ‘Hamish and his wife, Lesley, were expert fly fishers and keen gardeners.’
    • ‘He was an ardent fisherman, a keen gardener, and an active naturalist.’
    • ‘The community includes some ex-offenders and takes referrals from the prison service, but charity chiefs were keen to point out that a whole range of people live there.’
    • ‘This will be a unique opportunity for keen gardeners to buy rare and unusual plants, many of which are not obtainable from local garden centres.’
    • ‘She is a keen gardener, bird watcher, photographer and swimmer.’
    • ‘The areas round the house, where the borders are filled with herbaceous plants, were the territory of his wife, Elisabeth, an equally keen gardener, who died last year.’
    eager, anxious, impatient, determined, desirous, longing, wishing, itching, dying, yearning, ambitious, ready
    enthusiastic, avid, eager, ardent, passionate, fervent, fervid, impassioned, wholehearted, zestful, zealous, driven
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1keen on Interested in or attracted by (someone or something)
      ‘Bob makes it obvious he's keen on her’
      • ‘I've never been too keen on hot weather and with my illness it drains me even more.’
      • ‘He's particularly keen on photographs or other interesting items from the past.’
      • ‘I opted for shooting, which I have always been keen on since I was brought up as an Army kid.’
      • ‘They are strict on discipline, keen on manners and don't tend to remain adventurous for long.’
      • ‘One reason I am not keen on them is that they work by causing vasoconstriction.’
      • ‘Both Van and I are keen on the idea of investing for the future, especially now we've got Alex.’
      • ‘He told me that people in his country are very keen on promoting peace and friendship.’
      • ‘As a child, I was actually rather keen on the idea of spending a night in hospital.’
      • ‘Advocates of social software are keen on seeking alternatives to mainstream politics.’
      • ‘I wasn't madly keen on the upholstery but the padding was effective and molded to my back quickly.’
      • ‘If you're really not keen on cooking outdoors, take all your supplies with you.’
      • ‘She is not too keen on the boys in her class and thinks there is no hope for them.’
      • ‘I know few jobbing hacks in London who were keen on this particular assignment.’
      • ‘At the moment, the shares are no obvious bargain for investors keen on value.’
      • ‘If you are not keen on feta, use something else crumbly, such as Cheshire or Lancashire cheese.’
      • ‘Round here, we are not very keen on the notion of banning words of any kind.’
      • ‘My father had always been keen on sports and had played football in his younger days and then later cricket.’
      • ‘Her daughter Sarah is also keen on plants and writes about gardening as well.’
      • ‘I am not keen on a political debate on a legal procedure if the legal procedure is not known.’
      • ‘My background was two graduate professional parents who were very keen on academic success.’
      enthusiastic about, interested in, passionate about, fascinated by
      View synonyms
  • 2(of a sense) highly developed.

    ‘I have keen eyesight’
    • ‘Elves were known for their grace, beauty, keen eyesight, and sharp hearing.’
    • ‘He is powerfully built, but lithe and well balanced, with a light footed, smooth and graceful gait, has a keen sense of smell and is well able to point, set and retrieve.’
    • ‘In addition this animal has an exceptionally keen sense of smell.’
    • ‘Its sight is marvellously keen, hearing exceedingly acute, and sense of smell wonderfully perfect.’
    • ‘His quick and strong wrists, his reflex action, and keen eyesight all figured in his ability to succeed as a hitter.’
    • ‘With their poor eyesight and keen sense of smell, they can get dangerously close.’
    • ‘Like most owls, Great Horned Owls have keen hearing and keen vision in low light, both adaptations for hunting at night.’
    • ‘Cover scents hide the hunter from an animal's keen sense of smell.’
    • ‘The sense of smell is keen and the snout is used to probe when searching for food.’
    • ‘Most ray-finned fishes have keen hearing ability and sound production is common but not universal.’
    • ‘Deer are extremely cautious animals with keen senses of smell and hearing.’
    • ‘They have keen hearing and good senses of vision and smell.’
    • ‘In her latter years she suffered from failing eyesight and hearing but her other faculties remained keen and right to the end Mrs Rawlings retained an amazing memory of her life.’
    • ‘Like a sharp pair of fangs, quick forelegs, or keen hearing, our adept mind has insured the survival of our species.’
    acute, sharp, penetrating, discerning, sensitive, perceptive, piercing, clear, observant
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Having or showing great perception or insight.
      ‘her keen intellect’
      ‘a keen understanding of animal psychology’
      • ‘The new leader will have to display strength of character, sturdiness of will, a keen intellect, a sense of humour and an ability to relate to the people of Scotland.’
      • ‘I was pleased with the fact that the court appeared to me to have a keen sense of understanding of what I thought were the critical issues.’
      • ‘She also developed a keen sense of the future of research.’
      • ‘To her friends she is Karen, the self-assured and bright young woman, with a keen wit and plenty to say.’
      • ‘Readers of my diary will recognise me as a wise, avuncular figure with a keen mind and big heart.’
      • ‘So it followed naturally that she would later use her sharp eye, keen intelligence, and inquisitive nature to create stories about the people and things she observed.’
      • ‘Of course, it takes a keen military intellect to understand the strategic importance of blowing up empty buildings.’
      • ‘His sharp intellect, keen wit and urbane presence have been an asset of varying value to the Labour Party for almost 40 years.’
      • ‘He had a gentle, kindly manner, twinkling eyes and quick smile, a keen sense of humour and a penetrating wit.’
      • ‘Quick intervention begins with keen sensitivity and sharp observation.’
      • ‘His quick imagination, his keen humor, and his gentleness made his visits occasions for celebration.’
      • ‘He's made it to the top of his profession on his own terms, armed with a sharp intellect, a rakish charm, keen wit and passionate belief in justice.’
      • ‘She was a very bright pupil of very keen intellect which stood her in good stead all through her long life.’
      • ‘Reyes is old-school but not old-fashioned, and has a keen sense for the highs and lows of a jazz tune.’
      • ‘His sharp insights are conveyed through keen intelligence, humor, and wit.’
      • ‘We will miss his keen mind, his insight, his gentle, gracious manner, his caring nature, his mischievous sense of humour and his support.’
      • ‘Harriet has the keen judgment and discerning intellect necessary to be an outstanding Counsel.’
      • ‘‘Feminine reason’ was about common sense and a keen perception of the everyday.’
      acute, penetrating, astute, incisive, sharp, perceptive, piercing, rapier-like, razor-like, razor-sharp, perspicacious, shrewd, subtle, finely honed, quick-witted, sharp-witted, discerning, clever, intelligent, brilliant, bright, smart, wise, canny, percipient, insightful, sagacious, sapient
      View synonyms
  • 3(of the edge or point of a blade) sharp.

    ‘the keen blade went through the weeds’
    • ‘The dagger followed after and she leaned back to escape its bite but its keen edge sliced along her cheek, doing minimal damage.’
    • ‘This is quality steel that takes and holds a keen edge.’
    • ‘He swept his black blade around in a flat, horizontal arc, watching in satisfaction as the keen edge drew nearer and nearer to Anya's midsection.’
    • ‘After many modifications, the end result is an extremely tough, durable and sturdy blade that retains a keen edge over many years.’
    • ‘But the treasure was in the blades - made of the finest bronze, honed to a keen edge.’
    • ‘The knife was at her throat, its keen edge pressed against her larynx.’
    • ‘The keen edge cut through his glove easily and into his hand, blood seeping from the cut and dripping onto the pavement.’
    • ‘I stared at the knife in my hand for a long time, turning it over and over in my hands, admiring the keen edge and the gleaming metal that made the blade.’
    • ‘Seizing an opportunity, he slashed upwards with his knife, the keen edge of his blade taking grip on the dog's neck.’
    • ‘Emma remembered when Rae had pressed the keen edge of the sword against her throat.’
    • ‘The long blades were keen and the handles were sky blue with a silver pommel and cross-guard.’
    sharp, sharp-edged, sharpened, honed, razor-like, razor-sharp, whetted, fine-edged
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 (of the air or wind) extremely cold; biting.
      ‘a keen wind cut through their thick overalls’
      • ‘The steering arm thrums under their hand, the deck heaves beneath their feet and the keen salt wind cuts like a knife through even a good sealskin cloak.’
      • ‘Gone was Friday's bright sunshine, replaced by cloud and a keen wind that made hardy souls of those camped out overnight outside Westminster Abbey or along The Mall.’
      • ‘The day was blessed with bright sunshine, although a keen wind cut through Windsor's streets.’
      • ‘Overhead a keen, high altitude wind hauls thin streaks of cirrus across the bright, clear blue sky.’
      cold, icy, freezing, harsh, raw, bitter
      View synonyms
    2. 3.2literary (of a smell, light, or sound) penetrating; clear.
      ‘ear-splitting explosive bursts, keen and sharp’
      • ‘Claire gritted her teeth against the pain, a high, keen sound escaping her lips.’
  • 4British (of activity or feeling) intense.

    ‘there could be keen competition to provide the service’
    • ‘While the number of competing clubs was down on last year's entry the competition was, nevertheless, keen with some excellent individual scoring.’
    • ‘Graham forces the viewer to experience, at one and the same time, two intensely contrary feelings - deadpan irony and keen longing.’
    • ‘The horsemen looking on with the keen anticipation of those about to be mightily entertained paid me the compliment of rapidly becoming bored.’
    • ‘Anticipation is keen, excitement is not far away, people are living for the moment.’
    • ‘Once again a very keen and competitive atmosphere was enhanced by the good weather.’
    • ‘Cricket was my keen interest, my passion and my everlasting love.’
    • ‘Energy specialists project keen competition in Hungary by several foreign enterprises.’
    • ‘Lara will again lead the team in this weekend's encounter, which promises to provide keen competition.’
    • ‘For the participating companies, of which there will be over 400, the keen competition and fun will help foster team spirit.’
    • ‘The military, of course, took a keen interest in ensuring that all news was published ‘in the spirit of nationalism’.’
    • ‘This belief gave rise to a keen resentment which propelled many young people into political activism, and brought Duplessis to power in 1936.’
    • ‘The league is set to provide a lot of interest and keen competition among the enthusiasts.’
    • ‘The early exchanges were keen and only excellent defending by Castlecomer prevented Tralee capitalising on a number of offensive moves.’
    • ‘Fewer, larger farms, low prices and keen competition have made the economic services of many cooperatives redundant.’
    • ‘Competition is keen, and price increases tend to be modest.’
    • ‘I await the outcome of this potentially interesting conference with keen anticipation.’
    • ‘Auction results consistently show that there is a keen demand here in Ireland for contemporary art at affordable prices by both Irish and international artists.’
    • ‘Among Earnhardt's many passions was a keen love of deer hunting, fishing, and recreational activities.’
    intense, acute, extreme, fierce, violent, passionate, consuming, burning, fervent, fervid, ardent
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1 (of prices) very low; competitive.
      ‘we offer extremely keen rates’
      • ‘Prices are keen but beware that entry models have neither sun roof nor air conditioning.’
      • ‘Prices will be announced closer to launch date but if the new 1.6 litre diesel can be sold at a keen price, it will be the clear winner.’
      • ‘Whether they will be able to keep offering such keen prices if the banks become more cautious about property lending remains to be seen.’
      • ‘Prices are keen, starting at €19,500 for the 1.4 litre saloon and an extra €200 for the estate body.’
      • ‘If they offer the car at a keen price, it should prove extremely popular with Irish buyers.’
      • ‘It combines an attractive compact unit with all the multimedia features needed for home use at a keen price.’
      • ‘If they find it impossible to source local Irish produce at keen prices, they must ship in much of their supplies from England and the continent.’
      • ‘Their main aim is quality and value with keen prices.’
      • ‘It makes no bones about offering reasonable food, at a keen price with friendly service.’
      • ‘Most well-run companies will have mainstream costs under control and will have professional buyers negotiating keen prices for all raw materials.’
      • ‘Although their wines require a little extra effort to find, they boast an obvious authenticity and have huge rarity appeal and keen prices.’
      • ‘They will stock a huge range of toys at keen prices.’
      • ‘Ex-company cars at two to three years old can represent very good value for money if bought at keen prices, as they will have been serviced regularly under a lease plan.’
      • ‘I particularly like getting shops to match Internet-only prices, which combines the convenience of shopping on the high street with the Web's keen price tags!’
      • ‘However, these markets will be highly competitive, and consumers will demand keen prices.’
      • ‘Many Italian merchants ship internationally and at keen prices so it pays to do some leg work.’
      • ‘Buying locally where possible, combined with unpackaged fruit and veg, enables the company to sell its organic produce at keen prices.’
      • ‘All artworks are on sale at very keen, competitive prices, so come along and enjoy the wonderful display.’
      • ‘You get the opportunity to enter a short description and you can see what other people are selling their copies for, giving you the opportunity to set a keen price if you want.’
      • ‘And then there is the possibility of tasting, and buying wines direct from the source, which may involve keen prices and/or acquiring rarities.’
      reasonable, moderate, economical
      View synonyms
  • 5North American dated, informal predicative Excellent.

    ‘I would soon fly to distant stars—how keen!’

Phrases

  • (as) keen as mustard

    • informal Extremely eager or enthusiastic.

      • ‘Admittedly I'm enjoying myself and like any other teenager I'm as keen as mustard.’
      • ‘In my time, he was young, quite quick and keen as mustard.’
      • ‘Hyde to be fair, played some very good cricket on a slow, low wicket and they were as keen as mustard when it came fielding, which was impressive.’
      • ‘But this is another exciting challenge, and I'm as keen as mustard for the boys to do well.’
      • ‘By the time they get there they are totally jaded by the whole thing or keen as mustard to help.’
      • ‘Smith is just 21 and an emerging talent; bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, keen as mustard.’
      • ‘Being keen as mustard, we decided to walk from the station to the hotel.’
      • ‘He was keen as mustard to go and help, but we have been missing him and he's been missing us.’
      • ‘We're not sure what it says about our city, but everyone seems as keen as mustard to get out of Shanghai whenever they get the chance.’
      • ‘Under the circumstances I could have lost a certain amount of enthusiasm, but this was the first days' fishing of a new holiday and both of us were as keen as mustard to start fishing.’

Origin

Old English cēne ‘wise, clever’, also ‘brave, daring’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch koen and German kühn ‘bold, brave’. Current senses date from Middle English.

Pronunciation

keen

/kiːn/

Main definitions of keen in English

: keen1keen2

keen2

verb

[NO OBJECT]
  • 1Wail in grief for a dead person.

    ‘the body of Johnny was taken by his own people who keened over him’
    ‘their keening womenfolk’
    • ‘She could hear voices speaking in soothing tones, but Anna keened and wailed, and Kathleen tried not to imagine the scene on the other side of the door.’
    • ‘They keened and wailed outside the gates for hours.’
    • ‘They cried, they keened, they wailed.’
    • ‘When another daughter died in infancy she keened and mourned over the body for hours until the body finally had to be taken from her.’
    • ‘Act Three ends powerfully, with the village in flames, good Soviet citizens hanging by their necks, and keening women, including one who is given a ‘mad scene’ of sorts.’
    lament, mourn, weep, cry, sob, sorrow, grieve
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1usually as noun keening Make an eerie wailing sound.
      ‘the keening of the cold night wind’
      • ‘People naturally respond to the diminutive sax man's keening sound, funky rhythms and bluesy riffs.’
      • ‘The keening sound of the upper strings provides a lasting memorial for those departed.’
      • ‘Listen long enough and you can hear the high-pitched, enthusiastic yip yowl of coyotes; the long, keening howl of the wolves.’
      • ‘Here it's given a starker treatment, compellingly enhanced by Eliza's keening harmonies.’
      • ‘Their songs have a certain keening shrillness that will leave all but the hardiest nerves frazzled and jangling.’
      • ‘At 2:30 this morning I awakened suddenly from a sound sleep convinced I'd heard a keening cry.’
      • ‘And then she heard it, a faint, keening moan of despair.’
      • ‘As the van engine was switched off, a faint keening sound was audible from the back of the vehicle.’
      • ‘And Alex Thorne's high-pitched, keening vocals soar above the mix.’
      • ‘The band's signature sound comprises spacey vibes and keening tones, laced through with breathy flute, a lot of struck guitar and very little regular rhythm.’
      • ‘Seagulls keened and skied, pelicans bobbed on the swells, sandpipers left sharp three-toed tracks along the tidal margin.’
      • ‘His pleasantly keening voice is just not enough.’
      • ‘Her seminal musical works use what are called extended vocal techniques, such as overtone and throat singing, yodeling, keening, percussive sounds, and micro-tonality.’
      • ‘Then there was the high keening wail of the emergency vehicles.’
      • ‘She bent over and began to rock back and forth, and there was this keening sound that turned my whole body to ice, because no creature should ever have to be in this much pain.’
      • ‘The opening song places keening flutes and whispered vocal over an insistent pulse of clay drums and thumb pianos, punctuated by occasional bursts of talking drum.’
      • ‘Odd noises, strange instruments, keening vocals; its tunes wind themselves around your heart like drifting smoke.’
      • ‘Jessie was crying, a high, keening, terrified sound.’
      • ‘The air keening through the empty window seems colder somehow.’
      • ‘His unique and keening vocal style was called the ‘high lonesome’, such was the uncanny depth of emotion it carried.’
      lament, mourn, weep, cry, sob, sorrow, grieve
      View synonyms

noun

  • An Irish funeral song accompanied by wailing in lamentation for the dead.

Origin

Mid 19th century: from Irish caoinim ‘I wail’.

Pronunciation

keen

/kiːn/