Green’s Dictionary of Slang

ken n.1

[poss. abbr. SE kennel (in a non-canine mode) or f. Hind. khan(n)a, a house or room, which is also found in combs., e.g. buggy-khanna (coach house) or bottle-khanna (drinking house); Hotten (1867) attributes it to ‘Gypsey and Oriental’ and notes that ‘all slang and cant words which end in -ken are partly of Gypsey origin’ on which basis Partridge (1984) opts for a root in Rom. tan, a place; the term vanished from sl. c.1860, but has survived in costermonger jargon]

1. [16C+] (UK Und., also kenner, ker) a house; a home, a room.

2. [17C–1920s] (UK Und.) a disreputable drinking place.

3. [19C] (UK tramp) a bed.

4. [mid-19C] (US) in sense of house n.1 (1), a private house that doubles as a centre for commercial sex.

5. see patten-ken n.

In compounds

ken-burster (n.)

[early–mid-19C] a house-breaker.

ken-cadger (n.)

[early 19C] (UK Und.) the lowest rank of beggar.

ken-cracker (n.)

[late 18C–19C] a house-breaker.

ken-miller (n.) [mill v.1 (1)]

[mid-17C–mid-19C] a house-breaker.

In phrases

burn the ken (v.)

[18C–early 19C] to stay at an inn, then leave without paying one’s bill.