[ yen ]
/ yɛn /
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See synonyms for: yen / yenned / yenning / yens on Thesaurus.com

Definition of yen

noun, plural yen.
an aluminum coin and monetary unit of Japan, equal to 100 sen or 1000 rin. Symbol: ¥; Abbreviation: Y
a former silver coin of Japan.
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Origin of yen

1870–75; <Japanese (y)en<Chinese yuányuan

Other definitions for yen (2 of 2)

[ yen ]
/ yɛn /

a desire or craving: I had a yen for apple pie.
verb (used without object), yenned, yen·ning.
to have a craving; yearn.

Origin of yen

1905–10, Americanism; probably <dialectal Chinese (OAGuangdong) yáhn, akin to Chinese yǐn craving, addiction
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does yen mean?

Yen is a monetary unit of Japan similar to a dollar. It comes in the form of a coin that’s also called a yen.

The symbol for yen is ¥. Like a dollar, it can be divided into 100 parts called sen (though sen are not used in practice).

The plural of yen is yen.

Unrelatedly, yen is a slang term meaning a strong craving, desire, or yearning. It’s especially used in the phrase have a yen for. It can also be used as a verb meaning to crave or strongly desire.

Example: Ever since I came back from Italy, I’ve had a yen for fresh pasta.

Where does yen come from?

The first records of the word yen in English in reference to the currency come from the 1870s. It comes from the Chinese word yüan, meaning “circular object” or something like “dollar.” This word is also the basis of the Chinese unit of currency called the yuan. Yen coins are indeed circle-shaped, but yen banknotes come in varying denominations, just like the dollar.

The slang sense of the word yen was first used in the U.S. The first records of this use come from the early 1900s. It grew out of an earlier use referring to a craving for opium due to addiction, and in fact the word comes from a Chinese term that means “addiction” or “craving.”

If you have a yen for something, it means you have a craving for it. If you yen for something, you yearn for it. In both cases, the desire is strong, perhaps even passionate.

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How is yen used in real life?

When it refers to currency, yen is used in all the same ways that dollar is (except that the plural of yen is yen). The slang sense of yen is not so commonly used.



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Is yen used correctly in this sentence? 

We dropped a lot of yen to quench our yen for authentic sushi.

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British Dictionary definitions for yen (1 of 2)

/ (jɛn) /

noun plural yen
the standard monetary unit of Japan, (notionally) divided into 100 sen

Word Origin for yen

C19: from Japanese en, from Chinese yüan circular object, dollar

British Dictionary definitions for yen (2 of 2)

/ (jɛn) informal /

a passionate, ardent, or intense longing or desire
verb yens, yenning or yenned
(intr) to yearn

Word Origin for yen

perhaps from Chinese (Cantonese) yăn a craving, addiction
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with yen


see have a yen for.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.