From Academic Kids

An emoticon, also called a smilie, is a sequence of printable characters such as :), ^-^, or :-) or a small image that is intended to represent a human facial expression and convey an emotion. Emoticons are a form of paralanguage commonly used in email messages, in online bulletin boards, or in chat rooms. The word emoticon is a portmanteau based on emotion and icon.

A similar portmanteau, verticon (based on vertical and icon), is sometimes used when referring to the East Asian style of emoticon.



The first known instance of using text characters to represent a sideways smiling (and frowning) face is in a newspaper advertisement in the New York Herald Tribune, March 10, 1953, on page 20, columns 4–6. Promoting the film Lili, starring Leslie Caron, the ad read as follows:


You'll laugh :)
You'll cry :(
You'll love [Heart-shaped face]

The film opened nationwide, so the ad may have run in many newspapers.

In 1963 the smiley face, a yellow button with a smile and two dots representing eyes, was invented by Harvey Ball. This smiley presumably inspired later emoticons; the most basic emoticon image is a small yellow smiley face.

Several sites on the World Wide Web (such as Connected Earth (http://www.connected-earth.com/Journeys/Frombuttonstobytes/ComputerNetworks/Thegrowthofe-mail/Firstemoticon/firstemoticon(1979).htm)) assert that Kevin Mackenzie proposed -) as a joke-marker in April 1979, on a message board called MsgGroup. The idea was to indicate that a message was intended tongue-in-cheek — the hyphen was a tongue, not a nose. Although it has two out of the three characters of the smiley, its intended interpretation was different and it doesn't appear to have inspired the later smileys.

The creator of the original ASCII emoticons :-) and :-(, with a specific suggestion that they be used to express emotion, was Scott Fahlman; the original proposal made by Fahlman on CMU CS general board on September 19, 1982 (at 11:44) was retrieved from old backup tapes on September 10, 2002, by Jeff Baird.

19-Sep-82 11:44    Scott E  Fahlman             :-)
From: Scott E  Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>

I propose that the following character sequence [be used] for joke markers:


Read it sideways.  Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends.  For this, use


The earliest known non-ASCII emoticons were used in the PLATO IV program as early as 1972, which allowed users to type multiple text characters "on top" of each other. Many combinations of ordinary text characters were known to produce face-like patterns, which were used as emoticons.

In Internet forums, text emoticons are often automatically replaced with small corresponding images, which came to be called emoticons as well. In some versions of Microsoft Word, the AutoCorrect feature recognizes basic smilies such as :) and :(. Many popular instant-messaging (IM) tools perform such replacement automatically when receiving a message. Originally, these image emoticons were fairly simple and replaced only the most straightforward and common text strings, but over time they became so complex that they more specialized emoticons are often input using a menu of sometimes hundreds of emoticons. Often these menus go beyond the realm of emoticons and also have other objects such as musical instruments and can sometimes make sounds upon receiving the message.

An August 2004 issue of the Risks Digest (comp.risks on USENET) pointed out a problem with such features which are not under the sender's control:

It's hard to know in advance what character-strings will be parsed into what kind of unintended image. A colleague was discussing his 401(k) plan with his boss, who happens to be female, via instant messaging. He discovered, to his horror, that the boss's instant-messaging client was rendering the "(k)" as a big pair of red smoochy lips. [1] (http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/23.48.html#subj5)


Emoticons have developed over the years as a replacement for facial expressions and other emotional cues lacking in text-only communication; the goal is to avoid misunderstandings due to the lack of contextual information. Many books have been written on this subject, with voluminous listings of emoticons.

Western style

Traditionally, the emoticon in Western style is written from left to right, the way one reads and writes in most Western cultures. Thus, most commonly, you'll see the eyes on the left, followed by the nose and mouth. To more easily recognise them, tilt your head towards your left shoulder (or occasionally towards your right shoulder if the "top" of the emoticon is towards the right).

The smile is represented with a basic smiley :-). The colon represents the eyes, the hyphen is for the nose, and the parenthesis is for the mouth.

Many variants exist with different symbols substituted for the basic ones. The symbol for the nose is often omitted, for example :) or ;). When the colon is replaced with the equals sign, =), the nose is almost always omitted (so one would not see =-), for example).

Basic examples

The following examples all use the basic form, but each of them can be transformed to be rotated, to lose the dash and/or to replace the eyes symbol. Lately it has become common to omit the dash.

 :-)                smile
 :-(                frown: sadness or sympathy
 :-/                somewhat unhappy/discontent or undecided
 :-|                confused or unsure what to say
 ;-)                wink
 :-D                wide grin
 :-P or :-p or :-     tongue sticking out: joke or sarcasm
 B-) or 8-)         has (sun)glasses: looking cool
 :-o or :-O         expresses surprise
 :-x                "I shouldn't have said that"
 :'-(               shedding a tear of beauty / sadness
 :o) or :o(         larger nose, can mean 'tongue-in-cheek', more often someone is just 'clowning around'
 >:-) or }:-)       lowered eyebrows, evil or mean, a devil
 0:-)               halo over the head, good or benevolent, an angel, innocent
 xD                 LOL


There are endless possibilities, because people are very good at creating and interpreting pictures as faces. See ASCII art.

Some variants are also more common in certain countries because of reasons like keyboard layouts, for example the smiley =) is common in Scandinavia and Finland where the keys for = and ) are placed right beside each other and both need the use of the shift key.

A few people turn the smiley around, a "left handed" smiley (: This left-handed smiley can sometimes cause miscommunication though, since some hardcore netaddicts tend to drop the  : representing the eyes [leaving ) instead of  :) ] so what was intended to be a smile could be interpreted as a frown. The heart, <3, is also a left-handed smiley. It represents love.

There also exists the use of umlauts to achieve emoticons that aren't tilted to the side. For example, is the upright version of :O (meaning that one is alarmed).

As more of a joke than anything – but also as a political statement – "frownies", the symbol  :-( , were trademarked by Despair, Inc. in U.S. Trademark Serial No. 75502288, Registration No. 2347676. The trademark applies only to "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints". In January 2001 Despair issued a satirical press release (http://web.archive.org/web/20010124042700/http://www.despair.com/demotivators/frownonthis.html) in which it was announced that the company would be suing "over 7 million internet users" who had infringed their trademark. They subsequently issued another press release (http://web.archive.org/web/20010208214111/http://www.despair.com/demotivators/acompromise.html) a month later in response to the reaction their claim had generated.

XD or xD (used to represent laughing) supposedly became popular on the internet shortly after it was used in South Park, usually explained to the unknowing as the emoticon being akin to the animation method used when a character was laughing so hard they had their eyes closed in a "sideways-X-for-their-closed-eyes" method.

Head and hands emoticons

These emoticons aren't rotated, they include the letter "o" for a human head, and slashes and backslashes for the arms.

o/               waving
o\ or /o         scratching one's head, or a cyclop with a frown face
/o\              despair
\o/              joy
<o/ _o> <o>      dancing
<o_/  \_o/       fencing
>-<o             jumping, diving
_o7              saluting

They're also usable for displaying "animations", e.g. a crowning process:

o/" _o
o_ "\o
o_  <
o/  \/

East Asian style

Users from East Asia popularized a style of emoticons known as verticons (Japanese: 顔文字, kaomoji; literally, "face mark"), which can be understood without turning one's head to the left. These styles of faces roughly resemble the style commonly found in Japanese anime and manga comic books.

The Japanese language is usually encoded using double-byte character codes. As a result there is a bigger variety of characters that can be used in emoticons, many of which cannot be reproduced in ASCII. Most kaomoji contain Cyrillic and other foreign letters to create even more complicated expressions nearing ASCII art's level of complexity.

Basic examples

  (・ω・`) Deflated
  ( Д`) Nonplussed, or panting
  ( ゚Д゚) Semi-angry
  ┐('~`;)┌ Don't know the answer
  (∀`) Carefree
  ^^    Very happy
  < `∀> Stereotypical Korean character
  m(_ _)m Bowing
  (`ヘ)  Annoyed
  ( _ゝ`);snob
    Σ(゜д゜;) dumfounded
  (*Д`) become sexually excited


Anime style

English anime forums use a form of kaomoji adapted for single-byte encoding. These are usually in the format of *_*, where the asterisks indicate the eyes, and the central character, usually an underscore, is the mouth. When a period is used for the mouth, it is often meant to make the person look cuter, especially for women. Alternatively, the mouth can be left out entirely. A quote mark '" or semicolon ; can be appended to the emoticon to imply apprehension, or embarassment, ala the anime sweatdrop.

Basic examples

Note that for most of these, it is possible to use a period for a mouth (^.^) or leave out the mouth entirely (^^).

 ^_^                          smiley
 ~_~                          content
 `_^ or ^_~                   wink
 >_<                          angry, frustrated
 ^o^                          laughing maniacally
 \^o^/                        very excited (raising hands into the air)
 -_-                          annoyed (trying to hide annoyance), also sleeping (eyes shut)
 _                          focused at a particular person
 ;_;                          crying
 T_T                          crying a LOT / deadpan stare
 @_@                          dazed
 o_O or O_o                   confused surprise (one eye raised)
 >_0 or 0_<                   flinching, ouch!
 O_O                          shocked
 >_> or <_<                   yeah, right... / looking around suspiciously
 ._.                          small - hiding, discreet, intimidated
 $_$                          thinking about money
 x_x                          dead or knocked out
 n_n                          pleasantly pleased
 T0T                          a variant of crying
 e_e or 9_9                   eye rolling
 p_q                          confused
 *_*                          star-struck

Complex examples

=^.^=                         blushing, or a cat face (mischievous)
d-_-b title.mp3               Listening to Music, labeling title afterword.
~~~~>_<~~~~                   weeping horribly
^_^; or ^_^'                  small sweatdrop (embarrassed; semicolon can be repeated)
<(^_^)>,(>^_^)>, etc.         Kirby, often repeated to indicate dancing.  
<(_)>                       focused at a particular person with ear-phones
\(^o^)/                       very excited; '\' & '/' are arms in this case.
(;_;)                         tears,cry,very sad,very painful
( >^_^)> <(^_^< )             hug
( ~^_^)~ ~(^_^~ )             dancing
╮(─▽─)╭                     "Who cares?"

Posture emoticons

orz (sometimes seen as Oro', Or2, On_, OTZ, OTL, O7Z, Sto, Jto,_| ̄|○,_no) spawned a subculture in late 2004. It illustrates a person facing left and kneeling on the ground: the "o" symbolizes the head, the "r" represents the arms and the body while the "z" shows the legs. People use the pictograph to show that they have failed and/or they are in despair. It is not read phonetically, the letters are spelled out. m(_ _)m is another emotion with similar meaning.

Orz is associated sometimes with the phrase "nice guy" - that is, the concept of males being rejected for a date by girls they are pursuing with a phrase like "You're a nice guy," "I'd like to be your friend," etc.

In recent times, the emoticon Orz has found another usage for itself. On imageboards, it has been used not only for failure and despair, but also as a symbol for the Kowtow, illustrating instead a person bowing down in worship of a certain picture that was posted.

Many other emoticons are inspired by Orz, including:

OGC                            Man masturbating himself
oec                            Man masturbating himself (lefthander)
08>C                           Woman masturbating herself


<3                           Heart shape (♥)
---{-@                       Rose (variants are common)
<><                          Jesus Fish
(>")>                        Kirby (Alternate form)

Text Flags

One new patriotic variant is the text flag. These are usually represented inside a pair of close brackets symbols, to indicate a flag flying in the breeze ) ) Some examples of text flags;

)*=) United States of America

)I+I) Canada

)->I<-) United Kingdom

)X) Scotland

)*+) Australia

)*>-) Philippines

)<o>) Brazil

Tricolors are obviously a problem, so alternitives are made, such as )(7 ) Meant to represent the Irish Harp

Face symbols in Unicode

Unicode includes several symbols that may be used as emoticons (although few people actually use them). See the table below:

white frowning faceU+2639
white smiling faceU+263A
black smiling faceU+263B

Note that the words black and white in the above examples are printing terms roughly meaning filled in and not filled in, respectively.

Graphic emoticons

rolling with laughterMissing image

laughterMissing image

crying faceMissing image
Image:Crying emoticon.gif

devil faceImage:Devil emoticon.gif
demon faceMissing image
Image:Demon emoticon.gif

UFO abducteeMissing image

teleporting faceMissing image

"mooning" manMissing image

YodaMissing image

lightningMissing image

cussing or swearingMissing image

teeth-baringMissing image
Image:Teeth-baring emoticon.gif

drinkingMissing image

SephirothMissing image

beatnik (hippie)Missing image

birthday cakeMissing image
Image:Bdaycake emoticon.gif

banging headMissing image

Dancing BananaMissing image

See also

External links



Japanese emoticons

de:Emoticon es:Emoticono eo:Mieno fi:Hymi fr:Emoticon it:Emoticon ko:이모티콘 nl:Emoticon ja:顔文字 pl:Emotikon ru:Смайлик sv:Uttryckssymbol


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools