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I often come across words that are the same or similar between English and other languages. In this case, I'm curious about the word "keen", meaning to wail, and the Hebrew word "kinah" (plural "kinot") which refers to prayers said in mourning. Are the two related?

Information about how you found the answer would be appreciated so I can use similar methods in the future.

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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, MετάEd, StoneyB, Robusto, Matt Эллен Dec 3 '12 at 12:17

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
I had the following answer ready to send when this was closed. I post it here instead. –  John Lawler Nov 30 '12 at 15:09
    
The OED gives the following etymologies for keen v.: –  John Lawler Nov 30 '12 at 15:09
    
> keen v. [f. Ir. caoin- , stem of caoin-im 'I wail': see keen sb.] –  John Lawler Nov 30 '12 at 15:10
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So, as you can see, English keen is not related to Hebrew, but rather Irish. This is rather more likely, seeing as very few people spoke Hebrew in the British Isles, but lots of people spoke Irish. –  John Lawler Nov 30 '12 at 15:12
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How is it even related to 'What are your favorite English language tools?' Any doubts should be set at rest with Barrie England's answer. –  Kris Nov 30 '12 at 15:47

2 Answers 2

You need a dictionary that gives etymologies. The most comprehensive is the Oxford English Dictionary, but it requires a paid subscription. You may find the Online Etymology Dictionary of some help.

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Why the down vote? If it was because the question was closed, look: it's open now. –  Kris Dec 1 '12 at 9:41
    
@Kris. Perhaps it was because I only answered the final paragraph of the question. –  Barrie England Dec 1 '12 at 9:45
    
I thought (think) the closing sentence is the question. The "Are the two related?" is part of the theme, not the question. So your answer is complete. –  Kris Dec 1 '12 at 9:47
    
@Kris. I think I was rather looking at it as General Reference, but thought I'd give some pointers, rather than just vote to close. –  Barrie England Dec 1 '12 at 9:50

From etymonline:

"lament," 1811, from Ir. caoinim "I weep, wail, lament," from O.Ir. coinim "I wail." Related: Keened; keening. As a noun from 1830.

ODO's entry for keen reads as follows:

v. wail in grief for a dead person:
n. an Irish funeral song accompanied by wailing in lamentation for the dead.

So, no, the English keen does not appear to have any connection to the Hebrew kinnot. Considering that the Hebrew word probably dates back to the 6th century CE, it's unlikely that it has any connection with English either.

[Personally, I was under the mistaken impression that keening was onomatopoeic in origin.]

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See my comment @OP –  Kris Dec 1 '12 at 12:13

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