1 of 3

noun (1)

plural yen
the basic monetary unit of Japan see Money Table


2 of 3

noun (2)

: a strong desire or propensity
a yen for the sea
also : urge, craving
a yen for ice cream


3 of 3


yenned; yenning

intransitive verb

: to have an intense desire : long

Did you know?

Although yen suggests no more than a strong desire these days (as in "a yen for a beach vacation"), at one time someone with a yen was in deep trouble: the first meaning of yen was an intense craving for opium. The word comes from Cantonese yīn-yáhn, a combination of yīn, meaning "opium," and yáhn, "craving." In English, the Chinese syllables were translated as yen-yen.

Examples of yen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Record gains in corporate earnings have enhanced the appeal of shares in Japanese companies, along with the weakness of the Japanese yen against the U.S. dollar. Damian J. Troise, Fortune, 22 Feb. 2024 The former Malibu recluse is suddenly ubiquitous, with a new Christmas album, her first, cannily timed to fill the void left by Taylor Swift, now filling truckloads of pesos, yen and euros on her world tour. Hal Rubenstein, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 It will be issued to travelers making at least 10 million yen ($67,308). Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, 6 Feb. 2024 Nintendo recorded nearly 433 billion yen in profit a year earlier. Yuri Kageyama, Quartz, 6 Feb. 2024 Itō is also forced to pay Yamaguchi 550,000 yen for accusing him of dosing her with a date rape drug in her book sans evidence. Marlow Stern, Rolling Stone, 25 Jan. 2024 In 2017, the price was raised to 500 to 540 yen ($3.40 to $3.65) and a box of five now sells for 2,700 yen ($18.20). Tori Latham, Robb Report, 23 Jan. 2024 Its strength in that market became a challenge when a weaker yen impacted the bottom line. Diane Brady, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 The Japanese yen has been one of the worst performing currencies of the past couple of years. Jacky Wong, WSJ, 28 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'yen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1)

Japanese en

Noun (2)

obsolete English argot yen-yen craving for opium, from Chin (Guangdong) yīn-yáhn, from yīn opium + yáhn craving

First Known Use

Noun (1)

1875, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1906, in the meaning defined above


circa 1919, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of yen was in 1875


Dictionary Entries Near yen

Cite this Entry

“Yen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
plural yen
: the basic unit of money of Japan
: a coin worth one yen


2 of 2 noun
: an intense desire : longing

More from Merriam-Webster on yen

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