Where does the word yen come from?

In Japanese, the name of the currency is en, not 'yen'. The Japanese language has no 'ye' sound. See Is there a symbol for or ? Writing it as 'yen' in English seems to have originated from the use of "y" before all words beginning in "e" in a dictionary of 1867 compiled by American missionary J.C. Hepburn. See What are the systems of romanization of Japanese? for more about the Hepburn dictionary. Hepburn in turn seems to have based this on a dictionary of W. H. Medhurst published in 1830, and this in turn may have originated from the romanization used in the Japanese to Portuguese dictionary known as the Nippo Jisho of 1603. See Other systems of romanization of Japanese for more about the Nippo Jisho.

Other examples where this "ye" romanization has survived are writing Yedo for Edo, the old name for Tokyo, or Yezo for Ezo, the old name for Hokkaido, and in the surnames of some Japanese-Americans such as U.S. senator Daniel Inouye.


Edited from a post by NAKANO Yasuaki.

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