10 Emoji Meanings That Don't Mean What You Think

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

Some of the emoji you see and use online and in texts don't mean what you think they do—at least, not what they were originally intended to mean. Some of the misunderstandings, at least in the Western world, are cultural; after all, emoji originated in Japan. Furthermore, all languages evolve over time, and emoji are no exception. As a result, many of us just don't know the original meanings of frequently used emoji. Here are a few of the less obvious.

An illustration of a dictionary to explain the meanings of less common emojis.
Ashley DeLeon, Lifewire

Want to know more about emoji and their meanings? Head to Emojipedia, which keeps track of all the emoji that are part of the Unicode Standard.

01
of 10

Information Desk Person

What most people think it means: There's no desk, and no indication of information, so this doesn't appear as an information desk person at first glance. In fact, most people call this the "hair flip" emoji because of the position of the girl's hand. It's become trendy to use this in a message when trying to be sassy or cheeky.

What it actually means: The girl's hand is positioned to express helpfulness, as if she were asking, "How may I help you?"—exactly as an information desk person would. 

02
of 10

See-No-Evil Monkey

See-No-Evil Monkey
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: Most people think this suggests a cutesy "oops" expression. People commonly use this emoji 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 as in the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" proverb. That's why this one has two other cohorts: one covering its ears and another covering its mouth.

03
of 10

Woman With Bunny Ears

Woman with Bunny Ears
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: More often than not, you'll see this used to express ideas like "we're best friends!" and "let's have fun together!" In most cases, 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: very attractive women with bunny ears. The Google and Microsoft versions of this emoji has just one woman's face with bunny ears.

04
of 10

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. The Dizzy Face emoji is almost identical to this one but features no upper teeth. 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, use it. On the other hand, if you're dizzy, use the nearly identical Dizzy Face emoji. It might not make a whole lot of sense, but that's how they were intended to be used.

05
of 10

Dizzy Symbol

Dizzy Symbol
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: This one looks like a shooting star and is often used with other space-themed emojis such as the moon, earth, and sun. People also use it to express something magical or special.

What it actually means: Believe it or not, this is not a shooting star. Rather, it's meant to convey dizziness. Think back to the cartoons you used to watch in which stars spun around a character's head after he was hit with an anvil or something weighty.

06
of 10

Nail Polish

Nail Polish
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means: As with the information-desk-person emoji, people use the nail polish emoji to express sass or an "I'm better/prettier than you" attitude that flaunts 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 deep meaning behind it. 

07
of 10

Open Hands Symbol

Open Hands Symbol
Screenshot of iOS Emoji

What most people think it means:​ Two open hands can be interpreted in a lot of ways. Sometimes, you'll see this one used to convey the fluttering hand movement common in jazz-dance performances ("jazz hands"). 

What it actually means: As jazzy as they look, these hands are meant to express openness, as if someone were inviting you to 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, this is usually seen as a person praying. People often use it when pleading or to express a desire for something.

What it actually means: In Japan, a folded hand gesture says "please" and "thank you," so it's not at all far off from what most people think it means. Some speculate that this emoji was originally a high-five, and some people 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 food emoji, and this is one of the strangest of the bunch. It looks like a sort of nut to most people.

What it actually means: It's actually a roasted sweet potato. Harvested during fall in Japan, they sometimes have purple skin, as seen in this emoji.

10
of 10

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.

What it means: It's a name badge—the kind on which you write your name and fasten to your shirt. In Western culture, this iOS emoji is considered weirdly shaped for a name badge—but not in Japan, where kindergarteners wear them.