Kens is the main language of the Kencyrath. There appear to be both common and formal dialects; "formal Kens" is referenced several times,[1][2], while the randon Quick-foot tells Brier Iron-thorn to "use common Kens" in Seeker's Mask.[3]

High Kens is "a highly formal and archaic version" of the language.


huge, immortal, catlike creatures; third of the three people who make up the Kencyrath along with the Highborn and the Kendar; judges
a rare form of armed combat using clawed gantlets
a Shanir with clawed fingers and/or toes
a forced sleep that promotes healing
a type of strategy board game
a movement or form in the Senethar combat or Senetha dance
one of the Kencyrath
The Three People, chosen by the Three-Faced God to fight Perimal Darkling
one of the Three People, usually servant class
the Kencyr language
a military officer and graduate of Tentir, addressed as "Ran
a sort of non-commissioned randon officer, addressed as "Sar"
an alternating form of Senethar and Senetha
dance form of the Senethar
unarmed combat divided into four disciplines: water-flowing, earth-moving, fire-leaping, and wind-blowing
a master and teacher of the Senethar
sometimes referred to as the Old Blood; some Kencyr have odd powers such as the ability to blood-bind or to bond with animals, aligned to one of the Three Faces of God; to be Shanir, one must have at least some Highborn blood.
human vessels for the Three-Faced God to manifest itself through in the final battle with Perimal Darkling
a breed of equines kept by the Kencyrath for most of their history
a Kendar who has lost his or her house and has been offered temporary shelter by another; sometimes called "threshold dwellers"


Arrin appears to be an element meaning "cat" or "catlike". Arrin-thar is type of combat using feline claws, and Arrin-ken are catlike creatures.
-ath is an element that appears in the word Kencyrath, as opposed to Kencyr. It may make the word a collective noun, with Kencyrath meaning something like "all Kencyr". Alternatively, it could more literally mean something like "nation", with Kencyrath meaning something like "the Kencyr nation". As a suffix, the vowel may change depending on what precedes it, and so this element may also appear in Ardeth, Demoth, Rawneth, or Sheth.
-i appears to be a suffix meaning "someone who does the preceding element." Arrin-thari have the natural claws used in Arrin-thar, and a Senethari is a master and teacher of the Senethar. Immalai calls himself, "Immalai, the Silent One." It could be interpreted as Immalai being a name and the Silent One being an epithet; or as the Silent One being a translation of Immalai, in which case Immalai is another example of this suffix.
Ken appears to be an element meaning "people". 3 of the 4 words referring to the Kencyr peoples—Kencyr, Kendar, Arrin-ken—contain the element, and the only exception—Highborn—is translated into English. Arrin-ken literally means "cat-people" (see arrin). Given how ken is also the predominant element in Kens, ken may mean something more Kencyr-specific than just "people"—perhaps something closer to "our people". Cross-linguistically, it is relatively common for the names of ethnic groups to mean something like "the people" in their own language.
Sene is an element in the words Senethar and Senetha, in addition to Sene being a word in it's own right. As an element, it appears to describe some concept that is the base of both Senethar and Senetha.
Thar appears to be an element meaning "fight" or "combat". Arrin-thar is a specific type of combat, as is Senethar.


The following words and phrases are rendered in English the books, and are likely calques of Kens terms.

Darkwyr sign
the word Dark is translated to English, but the element wyr remains in Kens
the word lord is translated to English, but the element an remains in Kens

Linguistic featuresEdit

Kens does not distinguish between singular and plural forms of nouns. Shanir, randon, and yondri are all Kens words, and have the same form in both singular and plural. Highborn and Arrin-ken are the same. Kendars appears as a plural form of Kendar, and Kencyrs for Kencyr, but only in the first two books, and even then, only occasionally, suggesting it was just a mistake.

Writing systemsEdit

Traditionally, the Kencyrath relied on memory rather than the written word. They do have a written form of their language that has moderately widespread use, though there are plenty of traditionalists who don't. As literary is fairly modern, the Kens alphabet may have come into use in their time on Rathillien, and may be derived from Kessic, the common script of Rathillien. Alternative, the tradition of having a law scroll in temples indicates an older literary tradition, albeit in a limited scope, and the Kens alphabet may predate Rathillien. In that case, the alphabet may be derived from a writing system on an earlier world, or it may be a Kencyr invention.

In addition to their written alphabet, Kens also has a stitched alphabet, knot-stitch code. Highborn ladies use it, and it is kept strictly secret from men. Jame also suspects that Kendar use either knot-stitch code, or a similarly stitch-based system of their own.


  1. God Stalk, Book II: Crown of Nights, "Chapter 7: The Feast of Fools" — " 'Pardon,' it said in a remote, polite rumble. The language was formal Kens."
  2. Dark of the Moon, "Chapter 4: First Blood" — " 'All gates and hands are open to you,' he said in formal Kens."
  3. Seeker's Mask, "Part IV: Restormir", II — " 'Use common Kens, child,' he said gently. 'You don't have a right to Caineron battle-speech anymore.' "