I'm playing an Rpg video game and I've trouble with a dialog that's in it. (oh and btw everyone involved in the conversation and the group they talk about are vampires:))

"Camarilla elders? The ones that've been around so long they think candlelight's a keen invention You're doing their dirty work and you don't even know?

meaning and syn for the word "keen"

(source TFD) 2. Mentally quick and original: alert, bright, clever, intelligent, quick, quick-witted, sharp, sharp-witted, smart.

Is this the correct meaning in this situation?

  • keen (US slang), new, exciting. Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 11:43
  • lexico.com/definition/keen there are several definitions, but none of them actually fit with your example. I suspect that the authors wanted to convey that "candles" would be considered a smart/decisive/ excellent invention by the elders
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 11:44
  • It's contextually obvious the intended sense is that keen refers to something exceptionally good. But we don't really need to invoke allusions to the standard metaphoric sense keen = alert, quick-witted. I'd prefer to stick closer to the original sense of keen = sharp, honed, razor-like. That's to say, They think candlelight's a cutting edge invention - defined by Cambridge Dictionary as the most modern stage of development in a particular type of work or activity. Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 13:49

2 Answers 2


No. The correct meaning, from wiktionary, is:

  1. (US, informal, dated) Marvelous.
    I just got this peachy keen new dress.

("Marvelous" means great, wonderful, amazing, really good.)

So the character is saying:

The ones that've been around so long they think candlelight's a marvelous invention

That is, they are so old, they are impressed with the invention of candles, a technology which has been around for 2500 years.

  • Can the word "keen" be used to describe an invention that is brilliant or smart or is it only used to describe people. Like in "A man of Keen intellect" ? Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 17:36
  • 1
    @Static I would say no, "keen" meaning "smart" is not used to describe a concept or invention in current English. In fact, "keen" meaning "marvelous" is not really used either—hence the (dated) note in that definition. Really the only things that can be described as "keen@ these days are knives, eyes, and ears.
    – randomhead
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 18:19

I would read "keen" in this context as the 9th meaning in Wiktionary:

(obsolete) Brave, courageous; audacious, bold.

So the speaker says that the Camarilla elders are so old that they consider candlelight to be a very audacious and bold invention. Just think about it, a light you can carry around with you, even at night. A real gamechanger, especially for a vampire hunting for dinner.

As you see in the quoted explanation, this meaning of "keen" is mostly obsolete. Maybe the speaker is very old themselves and uses outdated language, or they want to further emphasize the astonishing age of the Camarilla elders by using old-fashioned terminology (that the elders supposedly would use).

  • 2
    Eh, not quite. More like definition 8.
    – randomhead
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 11:53
  • I believe it definitely can be an obsolete word as the vampires in this game are hundreds of years old. Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 10:50

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