AskDefine | Define yen

The Collaborative Dictionary

Ye \Y"["e]\ ([=e]"e), n.; pl. Y["e]n ([=e]"en). An eye. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] From his y["e]n ran the water down. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster]
Yen \Yen\, n. The unit of value and account in Japan. The yen is equal to 100 sen. From Japan's adoption of the gold standard, in 1897, to about 1913 the value of the yen was about 50 cents. In 1997 and 1998 the value of the yen varied from 80 per U. S. dollar to 120 per dollar. [1913 Webster +PJC]

Word Net



1 a yearning for something or to do something [syn: hankering]
2 the basic unit of money in Japan; equal to 100 sen v : have a desire for something or someone who is not present; "She ached for a cigarette"; "I am pining for my lover" [syn: ache, yearn, pine, languish] [also: yenning, yenned]



  • a UK /jɛn/, /"jEn/
  • Rhymes with: -ɛn

Etymology 1

From etyl ja 円.


  1. The unit of Japanese currency, equal to 100 sen.
  2. A coin or note worth one yen.


unit of Japanese currency
  • Dutch: yen
coin or note of one yen
  • Dutch: yen

Etymology 2

From yen-yen, from etyl zh 瘾.


  1. A strong desire, urge, or yearning.


strong desire
  • Dutch: verlangen, hartstocht


  1. To have a strong desire for.


have strongd desire for
  • Dutch: hartstochtelijk verlangen, smachten



  • /jɛn/|lang=nl


From 円.


  1. , Japanese monetary unit and coin.
The yen (Japanese ) is the currency of Japan. It is the third most-traded currency in the foreign exchange market after the United States dollar and the euro. It is also widely used as a reserve currency after the U.S. dollar, the euro and the pound sterling. The ISO 4217 codes for the yen are JPY and 392. The romanised symbol is ¥ while in Japanese it is also written with the kanji . While not a usage specific to currency, large quantities of yen are often counted in multiples of 10,000 (man, 万) in the same way as values in the United States are often quoted or rounded off to hundreds or thousands.


In Japanese, the yen is pronounced "en" but the spelling and pronunciation of "yen" is standard in English due to a historical Portuguese transliteration. The inclusion of the letter y is based on romanization of an obsolete writing of the word which included the kana ゑ (ye/we), examples of which can also be found in such words as Yebisu, Iyeyasu, and Yedo (it was still pronounced, however, as e). The romanization of yen has become a permanent feature.



The yen was introduced by the Meiji government in 1872 as a system resembling those in Europe. The yen replaced the complex monetary system of the Edo period, based on the mon. The New Currency Act of 1871 stipulated the adoption of the decimal accounting system of yen (1, 圓), sen (, 錢), and rin (, 厘), with the coins being round and cast as in the West. The yen was legally defined as 0.78 troy ounces (24.26 g) of pure silver, or 1.5 grams of pure gold. The same amount of silver is worth about 1181 modern yen, while the same amount of gold is worth about 3572 yen. The Act also moved Japan onto the gold standard. (The sen and the rin were eventually taken out of circulation at the end of 1953.)

Fixed value of the yen to the US dollar

The yen lost most of its value during and after World War II. After a period of instability, in 1949, the value of the yen was fixed at ¥360 per US$1 through a United States plan, which was part of the Bretton Woods System, to stabilize prices in the Japanese economy. That exchange rate was maintained until 1971, when the United States abandoned the gold standard, which had been a key element of the Bretton Woods System, and imposed a 10 percent surcharge on imports, setting in motion changes that eventually led to floating exchange rates in 1973.

Undervalued yen

By 1971 the yen had become undervalued. Japanese exports were costing too little in international markets, and imports from abroad were costing the Japanese too much. This undervaluation was reflected in the current account balance, which had risen from the deficits of the early 1960s to a then-large surplus of U.S. $5.8 billion in 1971. The belief that the yen, and several other major currencies, were undervalued motivated the United States' actions in 1971.

Yen and major currencies float

Following the United States' measures to devalue the dollar in the summer of 1971, the Japanese government agreed to a new, fixed exchange rate as part of the Smithsonian Agreement, signed at the end of the year. This agreement set the exchange rate at ¥308 per US$1. However, the new fixed rates of the Smithsonian Agreement were difficult to maintain in the face of supply and demand pressures in the foreign-exchange market. In early 1973, the rates were abandoned, and the major nations of the world allowed their currencies to float.

Japanese government intervention in the currency market

In the 1970s, Japanese government and business people were very concerned that a rise in the value of the yen would hurt export growth by making Japanese products less competitive and would damage the industrial base. The government therefore continued to intervene heavily in foreign-exchange marketing (buying or selling dollars), even after the 1973 decision to allow the yen to float.
Despite intervention, market pressures caused the yen to continue climbing in value, peaking temporarily at an average of ¥271 per US$1 in 1973 before the impact of the 1973 oil crisis was felt. The increased costs of imported oil caused the yen to depreciate to a range of ¥290 to ¥300 between 1974 and 1976. The re-emergence of trade surpluses drove the yen back up to ¥211 in 1978. This currency strengthening was again reversed by the second oil shock in 1979, with the yen dropping to ¥227 by 1980.

Yen in the early 1980s

During the first half of the 1980s, the yen failed to rise in value even though current account surpluses returned and grew quickly. From ¥221 in 1981, the average value of the yen actually dropped to ¥239 in 1985. The rise in the current account surplus generated stronger demand for yen in foreign-exchange markets, but this trade-related demand for yen was offset by other factors. A wide differential in interest rates, with United States interest rates much higher than those in Japan, and the continuing moves to deregulate the international flow of capital, led to a large net outflow of capital from Japan. This capital flow increased the supply of yen in foreign-exchange markets, as Japanese investors changed their yen for other currencies (mainly dollars) to invest overseas. This kept the yen weak relative to the dollar and fostered the rapid rise in the Japanese trade surplus that took place in the 1980s.

Effect of the Plaza Accord

In 1985 a dramatic change began. Finance officials from major nations signed an agreement (the Plaza Accord) affirming that the dollar was overvalued (and, therefore, the yen undervalued). This agreement, and shifting supply and demand pressures in the markets, led to a rapid rise in the value of the yen. From its average of ¥239 per US$1 in 1985, the yen rose to a peak of ¥128 in 1988, virtually doubling its value relative to the dollar. After declining somewhat in 1989 and 1990, it reached a new high of ¥123 to US$1 in December 1992. In April 1995, the yen hit a peak of under 80 yen per dollar, temporarily making Japan's economy nearly the size of the US.

Post-bubble years

The yen declined during the Japanese asset price bubble and continued to do so afterwards, reaching a low of ¥134 to US$1 in February 2002. The Bank of Japan's policy of zero interest rates has discouraged yen investments, with the carry trade of investors borrowing yen and investing in better-paying currencies (thus further pushing down the yen) estimated to be as large as $1 trillion. In February 2007, The Economist estimated that the yen is 15% undervalued against the dollar and as much as 40% undervalued against the euro. .


Coins were introduced in 1870. There were silver 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen and 1 yen, and gold 2, 5, 10 and 20 yen. Gold 1 yen were introduced in 1871, followed by copper 1 rin, ½, 1 and 2 sen in 1873.
Cupronickel 5 sen coins were introduced in 1889. In 1897, the silver 1 yen coin was demonetized and the sizes of the gold coins were reduced by 50%, with 5, 10 and 20 yen coins issued. In 1920, cupro-nickel 10 sen coins were introduced.
Production of silver coins ceased in 1938, after which a variety of base metals were used to produce 1, 5 and 10 sen coins during the Second World War. Clay 5 and 10 sen coins were produced in 1945 but not issued for circulation.
After the war, brass 50 sen, 1 and 5 yen were introduced between 1946 and 1948. In 1949, the current type of holed 5 yen was introduced, followed by bronze 10 yen (of the type still in circulation) in 1951.
Coins in denominations of less than 1 yen became invalid on December 31, 1953, following enforcement of the .
In 1955, the current type of aluminium 1 yen was introduced, along with unholed, nickel 50 yen. In 1957, silver 100 yen pieces were introduced. These were replaced in 1967 by the current, cupro-nickel type, along with the holed 50 yen coin. In 1982, the first 500 yen coins were introduced.
The date is on the reverse of all coins, and, in most cases, the name 日本国, Nihonkoku (Japan) and the value in kanji is on the obverse, except for the 5-yen where Nihonkoku is on the reverse.
500 yen coins are among the highest valued coins to be used regularly in the world (with values in the neighbourhood of US$4.86, €3.12, and £2.46). The United States' largest-valued commonly-used coin (25¢) is worth around 26 yen; the Eurozone's largest (€2) is worth ¥321, and the United Kingdom's largest (£2) is worth ¥406 (as of April 2008). The Swiss 5-franc coin is currently (as of April 2008) worth about ¥505, putting it just above the Japanese ¥500 coin. No doubt because of this high face value, the 500 yen has been a favourite target for counterfeiters. It was counterfeited to such an extent that in 2000 a new series of coins was issued with various security features. In spite of these changes, however, counterfeiting continues.
On various occasions, commemorative coins are minted using gold and silver with various face values, up to 100,000 yen. Even though they can be used, they are treated as collectibles.
Instead of displaying the A.D. year of mintage like most nations' coins, yen coins instead display the year of the current emperor's reign. For example, a coin minted in 2006 would bear the date Heisei 18 (the 18th year of Emperor Akihito's reign).


The issuance of the yen banknotes began in 1872, two years after the currency was introduced. Throughout its history, the denominations have ranged from 10 sen to 10,000 yen.
Before and during World War II, various bodies issued banknotes in yen, such as the Ministry of Finance and the Imperial Japanese National Bank. The Allied forces also issued some notes shortly after the war. Since then, the Bank of Japan has been the exclusive note issuing authority. The bank has issued five series after World War II. Series E, the current series, consists of ¥1000, ¥2000, ¥5000, and ¥10,000.

Determinants of value

The relative value of the yen is determined in foreign exchange markets by the economic forces of supply and demand. The supply of the yen in the market is governed by the desire of yen holders to exchange their yen for other currencies to purchase goods, services, or assets. The demand for the yen is governed by the desire of foreigners to buy goods and services in Japan and by their interest in investing in Japan (buying yen-denominated real and financial assets).
Beginning in December 1931, Japan gradually shifted from the gold standard system to the managed currency system.

International reserve currency

Historical exchange rate

The table below shows the number of yen per U.S. dollar. (monthly average)
* Monthly close from Bloomberg


External links


yen in Afrikaans: Jen
yen in Arabic: ين ياباني
yen in Aragonese: Yen
yen in Asturian: Yen
yen in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Ена
yen in Bosnian: Japanski jen
yen in Bulgarian: Японска йена
yen in Catalan: Ien
yen in Czech: Japonský jen
yen in Danish: Yen
yen in German: Yen
yen in Estonian: Jaapani jeen
yen in Modern Greek (1453-): Γιεν
yen in Spanish: Yen
yen in Esperanto: Japana eno
yen in Basque: Yen
yen in Persian: ین
yen in French: Yen
yen in Galician: Ien
yen in Korean: 일본 엔
yen in Croatian: Japanski jen
yen in Ido: Yen
yen in Indonesian: Yen
yen in Icelandic: Japanskt jen
yen in Italian: Yen giapponese
yen in Hebrew: ין יפני
yen in Lao: ເຢນ
yen in Latvian: Jena (nauda)
yen in Lithuanian: Jena (valiuta)
yen in Hungarian: Japán jen
yen in Swahili (macrolanguage): Yen
yen in Macedonian: Јен
yen in Malay (macrolanguage): Yen
yen in Dutch: Yen
yen in Japanese: 円 (通貨)
yen in Norwegian: Japansk yen
yen in Norwegian Nynorsk: Yen
yen in Low German: Yen
yen in Polish: Jen
yen in Portuguese: Iene
yen in Russian: Иена
yen in Simple English: Yen
yen in Slovak: Jen
yen in Slovenian: Jen
yen in Serbian: Јапански јен
yen in Sundanese: Yén Jepang
yen in Finnish: Japanin jeni
yen in Swedish: Yen
yen in Tamil: யென்
yen in Thai: เยน
yen in Vietnamese: Yên Nhật
yen in Tajik: Йени Ҷопон
yen in Turkish: Yen
yen in Ukrainian: Єна
yen in Urdu: ین
yen in Contenese: 日圓
yen in Chinese: 日圓
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