Formerly known as emoticons and smileys, emoji faces are used on SMS and social media apps like Instagram and WhatsApp. But what do emojis mean? What each emoji means is often open to interpretation—further complicated by heart and hand symbols.
Unicode publishes standards on what emojis mean, but they’re not always used as intended. They can have unique meanings within certain communities. Snapchat has its own unique set of Snapchat emojis, for example. So what do emojis mean?
Here are the commonly accepted emoji meanings for popular emojis.
Happy Face Emojis
Smiling Face With Smiling Eyes and Smiling Face are the most commonly used emojis. They simply denote happiness or positivity.
Infrequently, they may be used following a mild insult or criticism to remove some of the sting.
Other Smiley Faces
Smiling Face With Open Mouth, Smiling Face With Open Mouth And Smiling Eyes, Grinning Face, and Smiling Face With Open Mouth And Tightly-Closed Eyes are similar to the two simpler smiley faces.
However, they are often used to express greater levels of happiness. A message with one of these emojis will normally be extremely positive. They are rarely used with an insult or criticism.
Smiling Face With Open Mouth and Cold Sweat
Smiling Face With Open Mouth And Cold Sweat similarly shows happiness, albeit with relief. Messages using this emoji often express joy at how a potentially negative event worked out.
For example, if you sent a message explaining that you just passed a difficult test or got the all clear from the doctor then you could use this emoji.
Face With Tears of Joy
Face With Tears Of Joy is used to show laughter. It’s commonly replaced “LOL” when someone sends a joke.
Rolling on the Floor Laughing Face
Rolling on the Floor Laughing Face is the latest iteration of “ROFL”, one of the internet slang terms you need to know.
Upside-Down Face implies you’re not being serious or are talking about something that seemingly makes no sense.
Zany Face also shows flippancy. Use this if something is silly but funny.
Smiling Face With Sunglasses
Smiling Face With Sunglasses is used to show coolness. It’s sometimes used tongue-in-cheek or can mean “deal with it”.
Flushed Face shows embarrassment for an awkward situation or mistake. It is frequently used self-deprecatingly as a response to compliments.
Face Savoring Delicious Food
Face Savoring Delicious Food can be used in anticipation for, during, or after a tasty meal.
Nerd Face shows intelligence or passion for a particular subject. It’s often used ironically.
Smirking Face With Starry Eyes
Smirking Face With Starry Eyes means you’re excited or starstruck, like when you’re anticipating meeting someone or doing something.
Face With Party Blower And Party Hat
Face With Party Blower And Party Hat is used when celebrating an event. It’s best used when it’s a friend’s birthday.
Flirty Face Emojis
Smirking Face has strong sexual connotations. It normally accompanies sexual innuendos or suggestions.
Winking Face shows that the message was sent with humorous intent. Any message that accompanies a Winking Face should not be taken too seriously.
Similar to Smirking Face, Winking Face often accompanies suggestive messages.
Stuck-Out Tongue Faces
Face With Stuck-Out Tongue, Face With Stuck-Out Tongue And Winking Eye, and Face With Stuck-Out Tongue And Tightly-Closed Eyes are used interchangeably with Winking Face to show humor.
Relieved Face is, as the name suggests, meant to indicate relief. However, it is mostly used to show contentment.
It can also, in response to a suggestive emoji, demonstrate aloofness or innocence.
Smiling Face With Halo
Smiling Face With Halo shows innocence. It can be used seriously or humorously. For example, this emoji would be appropriate when messaging your friends on a Friday to explain that you are staying at home for the night.
Smiling Face With Horns and Imp can be used interchangeably to show naughtiness or mischievousness.
Because one is smiling and the other frowning, they show subtly different things. Smiling Face With Horns more frequently accompanies minor mischief or suggestive messages while Imp implies more malice.
Kissing Face, Face Throwing A Kiss, Kissing Face With Smiling Eyes, and Kissing Face With Closed Eyes are all used to show romance or affection. Face Throwing A Kiss is typically more romantic due to the small red heart.
The other three can also be used to show innocent whistling.
Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped Eyes
Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped Eyes shows love, adoration, or gratitude. It can be used towards a person, place, or thing.
Hugging Face means you’re sending the recipient a virtual embrace.
Negative Face Emojis
Neutral Face and Expressionless Face show a deliberate lack of emotion. They may be used to show that someone is unimpressed, indifferent, or awkward.
Unamused Face expresses dissatisfaction or suspicion. This emoji doesn’t show true anger or sadness, but rather a subtly negative emotion. For example, if you are unhappy or dubious of someone’s excuse for why they are late, you could send this emoji.
Face With Cold Sweat
Face With Cold Sweat shows stress or hard work. It typically refers to a specific situation. Messaging a loved one to explain that you must stay late at the office would warrant this emoji.
Pensive Face and Disappointed Face are the two main sad face emoji. Both convey a sense of sadness, remorse, regret, disappointment, or any similarly negative emotion.
Pleading Face shows you’re asking for a favor. It’s the “puppy dog eyes” look, and is rarely used in serious situations.
Disappointed But Relieved Face
Disappointed But Relieved Face is generally used to show fear or hurt.
Crying Face is similar to Pensive Face and Disappointed Face. It shows a stronger sense of hurt than general sadness.
Loudly Crying Face
Loudly Crying Face is a stronger version of Crying Face. It shows hurt, pain, and upset. Unlike the other sad faces, it is often used ironically.
Worried Face shows shock, horror, disgust, and fear.
Grimacing Face similarly shows worry, embarrassment, or awkwardness. Use it if you’re apprehensive about a message.
Face With A Raised Eyebrow
Face With A Raised Eyebrow shows skepticism or disapproval—perfect for if you don’t believe someone’s excuse.
Face With Monocle
Face With Monocle also expresses doubt, as if you’re scrutinizing a message.
Lying Face depicts a nose growing, just like Pinocchio. Use sparingly if you think someone isn’t telling the truth.
Face Without Mouth
Face Without Mouth shows you’re speechless. It can be used ironically, but often means you don’t know what to say during an awkward conversation or dare not speak your mind when embarrassed or angry.
Zipper-Mouth Face could mean you can’t convey the right words right now. However, it’s more frequently used to show you can keep a secret.
Face With Exploding Head
Face With Exploding Head shows shock, telling the recipient that you’re blown away. It’s normally used in awe of something.
Face With Symbols Over the Mouth
Face With Symbols Over The Mouth naturally replaces a curse word. Use this to express annoyance or anger.
Weary Face and Tired Face both show tiredness; however, they are often used to represent world-weariness and stress, as if you’re at the end of your tether.
Sleepy Face seldom represents tiredness. Instead, it shows that the sender is sick or unwell.
Sleeping Face is used instead of Sleepy Face to show drowsiness. It’s difficult to send a message when actually asleep.
Confused Face and Confounded Face are used interchangeably to show confusion. Confused Face is also used to show awkwardness or an apology. If someone has to cancel plans, for instance, they could include this emoji.
Face With Look of Triumph
Face With Look Of Triumph is one of the most misused emoji. It’s commonly used to show anger or frustration rather than triumph—often ironically.
Angry Face and Pouting Face both show anger, with the red Pouting Face the stronger of the two. Unlike Face With Look Of Triumph, they are seldom used humorously.
Persevering Face shows you’re struggling with a situation, but carrying on through your frustration.
Frowning Face With Open Mouth and Anguished Face show shock, horror, and disappointment. They are often used as a lesser version of Pensive Face or Disappointed Face.
Fearful Face, Face With Open Mouth And Cold Sweat, and Face Screaming In Fear all show varying levels of fear, ranging from slightly scared with Face With Open Mouth And Cold Sweat to outright terror with Face Screaming In Fear. They can all be used ironically.
Other Face Emojis
See-No-Evil Monkey, Hear-No-Evil Monkey, and Speak-No-Evil Monkey are used to show shock and embarrassment, mostly in a cheeky manner. Which specific monkey is used depends on the contents of the message.
Pile Of Poo
Pile Of Poo is almost always used humorously. It can replace a swear word or criticize a person or message.
Hand Symbol Emojis
Thumbs Up Sign
Thumbs Up Sign shows acceptance or agreement.
Thumbs Down Sign
Thumbs Down Sign shows rejection, dislike, or disagreement.
OK Hand Sign
OK Hand Sign shows acceptance, satisfaction, or that everything is OK. It can also be used to show that something is tiny or small.
Victory Hand is more often used to represent the similar peace symbol. It shows coolness, relaxation, or satisfaction.
Person Raising Both Hands In Celebration
Person Raising Both Hands In Celebration, more commonly referred to as Praise Hands, is used to show support or appreciation.
Open Hands conveys openness and friendliness. It can also mean you’re sending a hug, similar to Hugging Face.
Person With Folded Hands
Person With Folded Hands, while not meant to be explicitly religious, is used to say thank you, or to show prayer or pleading. You could use it when asking for a favor.
Call Me Hand
Call Me Hand, despite its name, can have numerous meanings depending on context. It’s similar to a traditional telephone handset, so can indicate you want to talk to someone over the phone. Pilots also use it to wish each other good luck. And in Hawaiian culture, it’s known as the “Shaka” sign, meaning “hang loose”—an affectionate gesture indicating solidarity.
Red Heart is the classic love heart emoticon, expressing fondness, friendship, or romance.
Purple Heart, Yellow Heart, Green Heart, and Blue Heart are all similar to Red Heart; however, the target of their affection is normally related to the color of the heart. For example, Blue Heart is often used with sports teams who wear blue jerseys. Similarly, the Yellow Heart is associated with the sun and summer.
Broken Heart is the ultimate expression of sadness. It can also be used ironically.
Emojis Are Changing the Way We Communicate
Emojis are forever evolving as a tool for communication and their meanings are still fluid. They’re surprisingly personal too, so you must be on the same wavelength as the recipient to avoid offending them.
While emojis may seem unimportant in the bog scheme of things, there’s even precedent for emojis landing people in court, so you should think carefully before using emojis in certain circumstances.