Kin vs ken

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Kin and ken are two words that are oftened confused. We will examine the difference between the definitions of kin and ken, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Kin means one’s friends and relations, or the same species of an animal or plant. Kin is used as a noun or an adjective. Kin is derived from the Old English word cynn, which means race, kind or family. The plural form of kin is kin.

Ken means the scope of one’s knowledge, what one understands, to know. Ken is most often used as a noun, though in Scotland ken may be used as a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. The word ken is derived from the Old English word cennan, which means to acknowledge, to declare, to know. Note that kin and ken are not pronounced in exactly the same way, and therefore, are not homophones.


Sara’s Law, named for Sara Dubinin, a 19-year-old Sayreville resident who was killed in a 2007 car accident, created the next-of-kin registry to prompt emergency responders to contact the family members of an injured person who is incapacitated. (Greater Media Newspapers)

“We have been working with Cleveland Police to establish the identity of the samples and to find the relevant next of kin.” (The Belfast Telegraph)

The lesson here might be to not allow a sports minister who would appear to lack any appreciation of diplomacy to insert himself into situations beyond his ken. (The Times)

G-d’s creation is what led to his downfall (in the sin of the tree of knowledge), when he understood this to mean that nothing is beyond his ken. (The Jewish Chronicle)