What is the difference between long, yen, and crave, as verbs and nouns both?


Longing - a strong feeling of wanting something or someone
Craving - an extremely strong desire for something (listing Longing as a direct synonym)
Yen - a strong desire

They're used as:

  • Long to do something / for something or someone; Have a longing for someone, something/to do something

  • Crave something; have a craving for something

  • Yen for something, someone / to do something; have a yen for something, someone / to do something

Is seems to me craving is used mostly when you talk about food or something (or something immaterial, like attention). Both long and yen strike me as somewhat poetic.

What are the differences between them, which is used more often and in what contexts? Do any of them sound archaic / stilted / poetic?

  • 2
    For starters, I doubt I am he only one who had never heard of yen in this sense, and it is not strange. As Merriam-Webster notes: obsolete English argot yen-yen craving for opium, from Chin (Guangdong) yīn-yáhn, from yīn opium + yáhn craving. That also explains why almost all of Longman's examples for yen are illustrating the common meaning of the word. – oerkelens Dec 27 '17 at 15:42
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    @oerkelens 'yen' meaning desire/urge/propensity is not obscure or rare. Which sense of 'yen' had you never heard before? – Mitch Dec 27 '17 at 17:02
  • A craving is for something that gives immediate gratification, such as a favourite food or an addictive drug, whereas a longing could be for something more remote such as seeing a loved one who is absent, or visiting a particular country. – Kate Bunting Dec 28 '17 at 9:53
  • @oerkelens I don't see that in M-W. The link you gave gives first the currency, then further down the page a definition about desire that does not mention 'obsolete'. Can you give a better link or quote in full? It is. It at all obsolete to me as a native speaker. – Mitch Dec 28 '17 at 12:47
  • @Mitch I stand corrected. I quoted exactly what I found, but I misread what I saw. It's yen-yen that is obsolete according to MW. I blame the weather I'm under for my hazy reading skills today (and yesterday)... – oerkelens Dec 28 '17 at 13:02

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