Talk emoji: What are the meanings for those cartoon symbols?

Last month, the Unicode Consortium — a computer industry non-profit devoted to “developing, maintaining and promoting software internalization standards,” according to its website ( — announced the release of version 7.0 of the Unicode Standard. Of the 2,834 new characters added to the standard, about 250 were emoji.

You know emoji — the cute/annoying/confounding little illustrations often tagged onto text messages or Facebook comments. Different from emoticons, the sideways images created with punctuation, emoji are cartoon images of everything from faces in every aspect to thousands of objects and icons.

The new emoji announced last month, mostly derived from images in the Wingdings and Webdings fonts, include an oil drum, a chipmunk, a heavy Latin cross and — oh, so classy — a raised middle finger. A full list is at

Apple, Google and Microsoft platforms may develop their own versions of these new emoji, and there’s no guarantee that they will translate across platforms, so the smile-and-wink emoji you send from your Samsung Galaxy still may end up looking weird on your friend’s iPhone.

But this is beside the point.

The point is meaning. Specifically, what are these emoji saying? There are thousands and thousands of them, yet enlightenment is not immediately forthcoming when someone sends you an emoji of a face with a droplet of water sliding down the side. Is it a tear? Does it indicate relief? Is it hot outside? And what about when someone sends you an emoji of a mushroom cloud? Is it time to repent? Is that person angry?

So, there’s way too much room for misinterpretation in the world of emoji. Couple that with the fact that the emoji we really need don’t yet exist, and it’s just mayhem out there.

To shed a little light and clarity, we therefore offer the preliminary version of A Beginning Primer on the Emoji We Really Need and What They Mean, Exactly.

(And even if similar versions of these emoji already exist, at least now we have a little certainty. If all else fails, there’s always the Imoji app, to make an emoji of your own face.)

Emoji: face with a unicorn horn

Meaning: As you can see, I have put on my unicorn horn, indicating that I am special and creative and thus entitled to blurt out whatever crackpot thing enters my head. Enjoy!


Emoji: face with only the whites of the eyes showing

Meaning: I have rolled my eyes so hard that now they are stuck and I might have to hit my head against a wall to get them unstuck.


Emoji: face with a few bites

Meaning: I was attacked by zombies a few minutes ago, so we probably will want to keep our relationship Internet-based for now.


Emoji: gravestone for English

Meaning: Well, you’ve killed the language. R U happy now?



Emoji: abstract image

Meaning: I want to acknowledge your text in some way, but a smiley face makes me feel like a simp so here are some weird shapes, plus a whole new texting paradigm!


Emoji: copy of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”

Meaning: Um, yeah. You’re setting the species back with what you’re doing/saying and at some point I’m going to want to check for webbing between your toes, say, or a prehensile tail.


Emoji: face expressing the sentiment of “Darn it.”

Meaning: You’ve just posted bad news on Facebook, and it feels strange to “like” it. But you’re kind of a Facebook whiner, and I can’t make a career of commenting with actual words on everything you post. Plus, the crying face seems like too much, so here’s a heartfelt, “Darn it.”


Emoji: Genghis Khan

Meaning: You have angered me. Retribution will be swift and thorough and by the end I will have conquered all the kingdoms.


Emoji: big Cheeto

Meaning: Hey, remember a few years ago when that guy found an enormous Cheeto and it was all over the news and now it’s in, like, Iowa? That was awesome. Also, I’m pretty stoned right now.


Emoji: grouchy sleeping face

Meaning: It is 6:30 a.m. Something had better be on fire because IT IS 6:30 A.M. AND YOU ARE TEXTING ME.


Emoji: prissy, vaguely British face with a monocle

Meaning: I say! I am deeply, deeply affronted. You’ve put my cravat all in a knot.


Emoji: dinosaur wearing bunny ears

Meaning: Here’s a T. Rex wearing bunny ears, because why the heck not. Enjoy your day.



Emoji: extremely awkward-looking face, indicating a desire for flight rather than fight

Meaning: Oh, geez, did you really just post that photo? You know Instagram is public, right? I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look you in the eyes again. Oh, man. I gotta go.


Emoji: face with suspicious side-eye

Meaning: I suspect you’re a CrossFit cheater and you’re not doing all the reps but are claiming you are just so you can mark it on the board. Humph.


Emoji: melting face

Meaning: Summer is never going to end so I just give up!


Emoji: sloth with a hash through it

Meaning: You cannot spend the entire weekend binge watching “Scandal” on Netflix. Get up.


Emoji: train going off the tracks

Meaning: OK. The crazy train has derailed, and now you’re just scaring me.


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