Emoji 101: your handy guide to 21 of the most popular emojis

Never misuse the poo again

It’s hard to imagine a world without emojis, despite the fact that pretty much all of us lived through precisely that. But the pre-emoji universe was a dark place that hopefully our children will never have to encounter themselves; if such a horrendous fate does happen to befall them, at least they’ll have the emoji movie to remind them of happier times. Today though, from cushions to rings, emojis have taken over the tech universe as we know it.

Currently, there are 800+ ( I’m not going to sit here and manually count how many emojis there are) emojis that are supported across most platforms, and even more than that if we’re talking about just iOS. You guys, that’s a lot of human and cat faces to choose from, not to mention the food and transportation options.

But ask yourself this: do you really know what all the emojis mean? Can you truly call yourself an emoji connoisseur without feeling like a complete fraud? Don’t feel bad if your answer is no to one or both of these questions. Apart from Apple’s emoji squad (I believe it’s a real thing, don’t question it), I highly doubt anyone knows what all of the emojis mean. Heck, I doubt anyone knows what a lot of their most used emojis mean. But luckily for you, I’ve taken it upon myself to do some research and share it with you so as to turn you into a well-rounded and overall better educated individual because, let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before emojis make their way into every primary school curriculum.

Now let’s hold hands, take a deep breath, and fully immerse ourselves in the wonderful world of emojis. (Note: I’ve compiled this list based on my own personal emoji encounters, and information on emojitracker, so apologies if you’re someone who is a major fan and frequent user of the Hammer emoji.)

1. Official name: Grinning Face

Actually means: You’re happy. Pretty much the emoji equivalent of “:)”.

Frequently used to mean: You’re happy. (Phew, glad we sorted that out.)

Examples:

  1. It’s Saturday! ?
  2. Thanks a ton! ?

2. Official name: Winking Face

Actually means: You’ve made/are making a joke.

Frequently used to mean: You’re joking; you’re flirting but want to keep it light-hearted; you’ve said something embarrassing seriously but the other person thinks you’re joking and now you have to save your dignity.

Examples:

  1. Well, I know someone who’d love to take you to dinner tonight if you’re free. ?
  2. I feel about you the way David Cameron feels about bacon ?

3. Official name: Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes

Actually means: You’re so happy that you can’t stop smiling. Like, so happy even your eyes are smiling.

Frequently used to mean: You got concert tickets; that cute barista finally asked you out; you’ve just adopted a pet; there’s a long queue behind you at the café and you got the last slice of cake. Some people also use it as a grimace, because it kind of looks like one.

Examples:

  1. GUESS WHO’S GOT TICKETS TO THE 1989 TOUR??!! ?
  2. -insert picture of your new dog on the car ride home- ?

4. Official name: Smirking Face

Actually means: You’re being smug.

Frequently used to mean: You’re implying something, probably in a sexual manner; you have something that everyone wants (such as that last slice of cheesecake from the above example); your mum confessed that you were her favourite child; you have complete control in a situation.

Examples:

  1. Guess who has an early copy of the new J.K. Rowling book? ?
  2. Just walked past my ex with my new bae ?

5. Official name: Loudly Crying Face

Actually means: You can’t stop crying. You’re so distraught, a deluge of tears are streaming down your face.

Frequently used to mean: THE PERSON IN FRONT OF ME GOT THE LAST PIECE OF CHEESECAKE; MY PHONE FELL DOWN THE TOILET. (Note: It is not a coincidence that all of these examples are in all caps. When you’re this overwhelmed with emotion, all caps is the only way to type.)

Examples:

  • APPLE PUT A U2 ALBUM IN MY ITUNES ????
  • RACHEL CHEATED ON ROSS. WHYYYYYY ????

6. Official name: Face With Tears Of Joy

Actually means: You’re laughing so hard you’re actually crying, and you might have even peed yourself a little bit.

Frequently used to mean: You just did something embarrassing but it wasn’t that bad so you can still laugh about it; someone else just did something super embarrassing but it wasn’t you so you can still laugh about it; you discovered a really funny Vine that involves a dog, a pineapple, and a trampoline; your mum texted you “What is a whip nay nay? Is it an insult?”

Examples:

  1. Someone just said the Star Wars prequel is better than the original. ? And they weren’t kidding. ??
  2. “Women don’t want to read about tech and gaming.” ??? 

7. Official name: Weary Face

Actually means: You have no clue WTF to do; life is so cruel.

Frequently used to mean: Your computer died and you didn’t back up any of your work; you accidentally sent a sext to your boss; Domino’s stopped delivering 30 seconds ago; you accidentally threw your favourite shirt into the dryer and now it will only fit a toddler.

Examples:

  1. I have to be in work by 6AM tomorrow. ?
  2. ? I just walked in on my brother while he was… busy. ?

8. Official name: Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped Eyes

Actually means: You’ve seen/heard something that you love.

Frequently used to mean: “I love you”; you got a free dozen cupcakes; you’re at an animal shelter; Beyoncé; Justin Timberlake; bacon.

Examples:

  1. They now make ice-cream doughnuts. ?
  2. I’m at a pignic!! As in a picnic. WITH PIGS. ?

9. Official name: Face Screaming In Fear

Actually means: You’re jaw-droppingly shocked and/or scared.

Frequently used to mean: Home Alone; Edvard Munch’s The Scream; you’ve heard super juicy gossip; the Spice Girls are breaking up; the Spice Girls are getting back together.

Examples:

  1. His parents just decided to come over at the last minute and they want to meet me! ?
  2. Facebook, Twitter, AND Instagram are all down!!! ?

10. Official name: Face Throwing A Kiss

Actually means: You’re winking and blowing someone a kiss. Double flirt points for you.

Frequently used to mean: Someone’s agreed to do you a favour; you’re too lazy to type “I love you”; you’re lovingly poking fun at someone; your sister has confronted you as to why you’re wearing her jacket in your pics from last night; you’re texting something you’re too afraid to say in person or even over the phone.

Examples:

  1. Please go and pick up some Chinese before I get home. ?
  2. Hey mum, just wanted to let you know I won’t be home for Christmas. Love you! ?

11. Official name: Birthday Cake

Actually means: It’s someone’s birthday!! Notice that this is a birthday cake with candles, and therefore is not interchangeable with the plain cake emoji. To reiterate: this is not just a cake, but specifically a birthday cake.

Frequently used to mean: “Happy Birthday!!”; anything else related to birthdays, because let’s be honest, we only celebrate birthdays for the free cake.

Examples:

  1. *~{{~HAPPY BDAY!!~}}~* ?
  2. See you at John’s surprise party!! I’m in charge of the food. ?

12. Official name: Sleeping Face

Actually means: You’re sleeping or sleepy.

Frequently used to mean: You’re in the middle of a boring meeting or lecture; you’re responding to someone who’s asked you what you’re doing at 9AM on Saturday; you’re about to head to bed; you’re 45 minutes into the latest Apple Event.

Examples:

  1. Just watched the new Fantastic Four. ?
  2. -Instagram pic of you in bed- ?

13. Official name: Person With Folded Hands

Actually means: In Japanese culture (which is where emojis come from, FYI), folded hands are used in conjunction with saying “Please” or “Thank You.”

Frequently used to mean: Thank god (or whatever deity you worship); “pleeeeeeeeeeeeeaaassseeee”; you forgot to write a paper that’s due today but you just got an email saying class has been cancelled; the sun is out in London.

Examples:

  1. There was one more condom left in the box. ?
  2. The Mindy Project has been renewed for another season!!! ?

14. Official name: Fisted Hand Sign (yes, really)

Actually means: You’re going to punch or fist-bump someone.

Frequently used to mean: Someone just said Chris Evans wasn’t hot; your dad is proud of his latest dad joke; Donald Trump is talking about immigration.

Examples:

  1. Just nailed my appraisal ?
  2. Donald Trump is on my screen. ?

15. Official name: Smiling Cat With Heart-Shaped Eyes

Actually means: The cat version of the Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped Eyes. Why is there a cat version? Because Taylor Swift loves cats and Apple loves Taylor Swift. (Note: probably not the real reason.)

Frequently used to mean: You’re too cool/hipster/sassy to use the human version of the emoji; you feel like only a cat can accurately convey what you want to express; you’re doing something cat-related.

Examples:

  1. OMG did you see Taylor’s latest Instagram vid of her cats?? ?
  2. I’M AT A CAT CAFE!!!!! ?

16. Official name: Thumbs Down Sign

Actually means: No; that idea sucks; I disapprove.

Frequently used to mean: You’re telling your best friend you are NOT happy that she’s “grabbing coffee” with her ex; your sister thinks her bum bag is cool; you have to get a root canal; you just got soaked by an arsehole slamming on the accelerator through a puddle.

Examples:

  1. I just bit into a chocolate chip cookie that was actually a raisin cookie. ?
  2. My new dress makes me look like a cross between Minnie Mouse and Spongebob. ?

17. Official name: Heavy Black Heart

Actually means: A heart. But okay, I know what you’re thinking: ARE YOU BLIND, WOMAN? THIS ISN’T BLACK! That was my first reaction too. My second reaction was, OMG Have I discovered a longstanding yet overlooked Apple secret?? Will this be like The Dress? Will people argue over the colour of this emoji? Will I go viral? Will I go on talk shows??

Sadly, after doing some digging, the answer to all of those questions is “no.” As it turns out, the “black” actually refers to the fact that if this heart were to be drawn in just black and white (as was the case in the pre-emoji era), then it would be filled in with a black colour instead of just a black outline. In other words, if this were a WingDing in MS Word, it would be the black heart (NOT the white heart). But it should be noted that in emoji land, there actually is a black black heart in addition to the heavy black heart (which is actually a red heart). Wait, what?

Frequently used to mean: Pretty much anything to do with love – this includes love of people, places, animals, things, hobbies, etc.; often used in place of the word “love.”

Examples:

  1. OMG ❤️ your new hair!!
  2. Hbd, bb ❤️

18. Official name: Information Desk Person

Actually means: She’s a… well, an information desk person who is apparently supposed to resemble a waitress holding an invisible tray of drinks. (Hey man, don’t look at me. I’m not the one who comes up with these things. I don’t get this one either.)

Frequently used to mean: A sassy hair flip; a sassy shrug; “Their/Your loss”; you’ve just done something awesome that no one else could; someone in your group decided not to come out at the last minute but you actually can’t stand them so whatever.

Examples:

  1. My boss told me off in front of everyone because my bra strap was showing. So I quit. ?-
  2. Just whipped out a ten-page essay in ninety minutes. ?

19. Official name: Airplane

Actually means: A plane that’s either taking off, or one that we’re viewing from above.

Frequently used to mean: You’re at the airport; you’re going on holiday; you’re coming back from a holiday; you’re on a flight that’s about to take off, but you want to get one social media post in at the last possible minute.

Examples:

  1. WOOHOO AUSTRALIA, HERE WE COME. Nothing like that rush you get when you step inside an airport. ✈️
  2. At our third layover. Still not in Australia. Getting pretty sick of airports. ✈️ ?

20. Official name: See-No-Evil Monkey

Actually means: One of the three wise monkeys in Japanese culture; this particular one is called Mizaru. Together they represent the saying “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

Frequently used to mean: You can’t bear to look; you don’t want to look; you just walked in on your sibling naked; your mother posted a FB #tbt pic of your placenta; you’re in a coffeeshop and there’s a disastrous date happening right in front of you.

Examples:

  1. My sister’s coming home with her first tattoo. Of a unicorn. ?
  2. I’m at Alton Towers and this kid just ate five burgers and is now about to ride Oblivion. ?

21. Official name: Pile Of Poo

Actually means: Poo, but a friendly piece of poo, as is evidenced by its smiling face. Could also be seen as chocolate ice-cream without the cone, as the poo emoji and the ice-cream part of the Soft Ice Cream emoji are the same.

Frequently used to mean: You’re taking a shit; you’re waiting for someone else to finish taking a shit; something is shit, you’ve bought a poo-themed novelty item; you’re Canadian

Examples:

  1. I can’t make Saturday anymore, I have to work ?
  2. TMI but guess who’s no longer constipated?? ?

That’s all for now folks – which emojis would you like to see explained in Round 2? Let us know on Twitter.


 

Main image: Flickr/The All-Nite Images
Emoji images: Emojipedia