10 Emoji Meanings That Don't Mean What You Think They Mean

Are you using these emoji the way they're supposed to be used?

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It's easy enough to type a winky face emoji or a thumbs up emoji online or in a text message to help get your point across in something other than words alone, but did you know that the original meanings of some of the emoji you see all the time online and in texts are actually being misinterpreted and used incorrectly?

For some of the less obvious emoji meanings, we can refer to Emojipedia – a site that keeps track of all the emoji that are part of the Unicode Standard. In the list below, you can find some of the emoji that are most frequently used online or via text message, but are often interpreted as something completely different than what they're meant to be used for.

Are you using these emoji correctly? You might be surprised to find out what they really mean! (P.S. Is the term bitmoji confusing you? This is the difference! Then, of course, Apple had to get into the game with animoji. So much for just two terms to know.)

01
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Information Desk Person

Information Desk Person
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: At first glance, you have to admit it's pretty tough to see this as an "information desk person." Where's the desk?! Most people call it the "hair flip" emoji because of the position of the girl's hand. It's become trendy to use this one in a message when trying to be sassy or cheeky.

What it actually means: Believe it or not, the the girl's hand is positioned the way it is so that it expresses helpfulness, as if she were asking "how may I help you?" After all, that's what information desk people do. 

02
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See-No-Evil Monkey

See-No-Evil Monkey
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: Most people think this monkey's hands over its eyes suggest a cutesy "oops" expression. It's not uncommon to find people using this emoji as a way to express embarrassment in an amusing way or to emphasize that they made a funny mistake.  

What it actually means: As its name suggests, this monkey is covering its eyes to "see no evil" as part of the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" proverb. That's why you can see two more monkey emoji alongside this one – one covering its ears and another covering its mouth.

03
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Woman with Bunny Ears

Woman with Bunny Ears
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: This is a trickier one to interpret, but more often than not, you'll see it regularly used to express ideas like "we're best friends!" and "let's have fun together!" In some form or another, it's used to communicate fun and friendship.

What it actually means: The women with bunny ears emoji is actually the Japanese version of what Americans call Playboy bunnies – usually a very attractive woman with bunny ears. In the Google and Microsoft versions of this emoji, only a single woman's face with bunny ears is shown.

04
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Astonished Face

Astonished Face
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: This emoji face has two Xs for eyes, and a lot of people interpret that as someone who is dead or dying. Another emoji called the Dizzy Face is almost identical to this one, but features no upper teeth in the mouth as shown in the Astonished Face emoji. Confused yet?

What it actually means: The Astonished Face emoji actually has nothing to do with death. But if you want to express shock and astonishment, then use it. On the other hand, if you're feeling dizzy, you should use the nearly identical Dizzy Face emoji. It may not make a whole lot of sense, but that's how they were intended to be used!

05
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Dizzy Symbol

Dizzy Symbol
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: This one sure does look like a shooting star. I've seen it used beside other space-themed emoji like the moon, the earth and the sun. People will also often use it to express something magical or special.

What it actually means: Believe it or not, this is not a shooting star. It's actually a symbol that's supposed to convey dizziness. Think back to the cartoons you used to watch where there were stars that used to spin around some of the characters heads after they were hit with an anvil or something. Makes sense now, right?

06
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Nail Polish

Nail Polish
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: Similar to the information desk person emoji, a lot of people use the nail polish emoji to express sass or an "I'm better/prettier than you" type of attitude – kind of like how certain people like to flaunt their looks or beauty.

What it actually means: It's just a woman's hand painting her nails pink with polish. Nothing more, nothing less. There's no other deep meaning behind it. 

07
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Open Hands Symbol

Open Hands Symbol
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means:​ Two open hands are shown here, which could be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Sometimes you'll see this one used to convey the fluttering jazz dance hand movement you commonly see in some performances. (Jazz hands.) 

What it actually means: As jazzy as they look, these hands are meant to express openness, as if someone was inviting you to give them a hug.

08
of 10

Person with Folded Hands

Person with Folded Hands
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: In the Western world, the "person with folded hands" emoji is generally seen as a person praying. People often use it when pleading or to express their desire for something.

What it actually means: In Japan, a folded hand gesture is commonly used to say "please" and "thank you," so it's not at all far off from what most people think it means. There was some speculation that this emoji was actually a high-five, and some people do use it for that.

09
of 10

Roasted Sweet Potato

Roasted Sweet Potato
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: There are a lot of emoji icons of food, and this is one of the strangest looking in the bunch. It looks like some sort of nut to most people.

What it actually means: It's actually a roasted sweet potato, which are harvested during the fall season in Japan. They can sometimes have purple skin, as seen in this emoji.

10
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Name Badge

Name Badge
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: No, this is not a tulip. It's not fire either. It sure looks like both of those though, and I've only really seen it used as fire in some rare instances. Do you have any idea what this actually is?

What it actually means: It's a name badge. You write your name in the white rectangular area and fasten it to your shirt. In Western culture, this iOS emoji may be considered weirdly shaped for a name badge, but it's commonly used in kindergarten classes in Japan.