The Japanese Yen

Japanese Yen

 

The Japanese yen (code: JPY) is the official 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..

Yen is pronounced "en"  in Japanese. The word Shinjitai literally means "round" in Japanese, as yuán does in Chinese or won in Korean. Originally, Chinese had traded silver in mass (see sycee) and when Spanish and Mexican silver coins arrived, they called them (silver round) for their circular shapes.  The coins and the name also appeared in Japan. Later, the Chinese replaced with which has the same pronunciation in Mandarin (but not in Japanese).

The spelling and pronunciation "yen" is standard in English. This is because mainly English speakers who visited Japan at the end of the Edo period to the early Meiji period spelled words this way. Walter Henry Medhurst, who had not come to Japan and met any Japanese, having consulted mainly a Japanese-Dutch dictionary, spelled some "e” s as “ye” in his An English and Japanese, and Japanese and English Vocabulary (1830).  In the early Meiji era, James Curtis Hepburn, following Medhurst, spelled all "e"s as "ye" in his A Japanese and English dictionary (1st ed. 1867). That was the first full-scale Japanese-English/English-Japanese dictionary, which had a strong influence on Westerners in Japan and probably prompted the spelling "yen". Hepburn revised most of "ye"s to "e" in the 3rd edition (1886) in order to mirror the contemporary pronunciation, except "yen".  This was probably already fixed and has remained so ever since.