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Meaning and etymology of the name Kenan

Kenan Kenan

Kenan is the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve (Genesis 5:9). Apart from the mysterious Cainan, the name Kenan is used only once in the Bible, and that only in Genesis 5. We don't know what became of him, except that he died before the flood of Noah.

Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proclaims that the name Kenan is the same as Cain,and renders Possession. And yes, the name Kenan is identical to that of Cain, save for an added nun. And yes, sometimes a nun is added to a verb to indicate a personification (verb + nun = guy who does the verb). But that personification form usually consists of a yod-nun combination.

Another possibility (and favored by us here at Abarim Publications) is that the name Kenan comes from the verb qin (qin), meaning to chant a dirge (Amos 8:10). This verb comes from the noun qina (qina), meaning lamentation, or a sad poem which is sung (Jeremiah 7:19, Ezekiel 2:10). A strong clue that the name Kenan (with the troublesome double nun) indeed comes from this word group lies in the existence of a verb that HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gracefully skips but which is well featured in BDB Theological Dictionary. It's the verb qwnn (qwnn), meaning to chant a dirge (Ezekiel 27:32, 1 Samuel 1:17).

That way the name Kenan means Lamenter.

However, through the apparently related name Kenite, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names notes a relation to the verb qinnen (qinnen), meaning to make a nest (Isaiah 34:15). That way the name Kenan may mean Nester. Perhaps the cry of the eagle reminded the Hebrews of lamenting. Perhaps the two have nothing to do with each other.

Perhaps thinking of the nest-making verb, NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Fixed for both Cainan and Kenan.

Cain Derivation Tree



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