• yen
  • audio pronunciation
  • \YEN\
  • DEFINITION

noun

: a strong desire or propensity : longing; also : urge, craving
  • EXAMPLES

Though it has been years since he moved away from home, Johnnie still experiences the occasional yen for his grandmother's cooking.

"The first of the five to enlist was Ford, a devout Irish American Catholic with a yen for the seafaring life." — From a book review by M.G. Lord in the Los Angeles Times (California), February 20, 2014

  • DID YOU KNOW?

Although "yen" suggests no more than a strong longing these days, at one time someone with a yen was in deep trouble indeed. The first meaning of "yen" was an intense craving for opium. The late 19th-century English term evolved from the Cantonese "yīn-yáhn," which itself combines "yīn,” meaning “opium,” and "yáhn," meaning "craving." In English, the Chinese syllables were transformed to "yen-yen" and ultimately abbreviated to simply "yen." Eventually, "yen" was generalized to the more innocuous meaning of "a strong desire," and the link to drug cravings was lost.

Test Your Memory: What is the meaning of "picayune," our Word of the Day from February 26? The answer is …

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