Emoticons and Smileys 101

An Introduction to 21st Century Hieroglyphs

Hand using emoticon keyboard
Dimitri Otis/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

November, 2015

Emoticons are "emotional icons" for messaging. Also known as "smileys", these modern-day glyph shapes are used to add emotion and style to email. Emoticons, when used well, can add the subtleties of vocal inflection, facial expression, and body language to a written note.

Emoticon use is actually quite simple: you type simple keyboard characters and view the majority of these shapes sideways.

It is particularly useful when the mood of your written message could be easily misconstrued.

Example 1a:
Yeah, but you're never on time, anyways.

Example 1b:
Yeah, but you're never on time, anyways. ;-)

Notice above how example 1a has an ambiguous mood, and could easily be taken as a cutting remark. Example 1b, however, conveys a warmth and jokingness by simply adding the three emoticon characters for winking: ;-)

Here is another emoticon example:

Example 2a:
I'm looking forward to Friday night.

Example 2b:
I'm looking forward to Friday night. @>--->----

Example 2a is strictly a statement. Example 2b, with the rose flower emoticon, is a statement with innuendo. Definitely more romance factor with example 2b! Emoticon "smileys" are not for all correspondences, especially not for professional business documents. Emoticons, however, are very common in personal emails in an informal setting, or in chatrooms and online discussion forums.

Click here for an exhaustive list of Internet emoticons and smileys...

Related article: Internet Shorthand


The classic "smiley" emoticon above was created in 1982 by a Carnegie Mellon student named Scott Fahlman. He was spurred to do this when a fellow student's bulletin board joke was misunderstood.

FYI History Note: this is the original 1982 conversation that started modern-day emoticons.

Here is a beginning list of some popular emotional icons:
(remember to tilt your head and view them sideways)

t('.'t) Those are fighting words!

Put 'em up!
:-) I am smiling in a classic way
:P I am sticking out my tongue
:^P I am sticking out tongue, and I have a nose
B^P I am sticking out tongue, and I have sunglasses
:{ I am having a hard time
;-) Winking at you
;( I am crying
:-D I am laughing happily
@}->-- Rose for you (to show affection)
|^o I am snoring
>:-( I am annoyed

C):-) I am a cowboy
C=:-) I am a chef
o{-<]: I am skateboarder
:( ) I have a big mouth.
@= I am pro-nuclear war.
*<:-) I am wearing a Santa Claus Hat.
:-[I am a vampire.
:-o Uh oh!
|-) Hee hee!
3:] My pet.
3:[ My mean pet.
%-) I am brain dead right now.
:-|| I am seriously angry.
><((((o> Fish
>^..^< Cat
(='.'=) Fat Cat
//o-o\\ John Lennon
(_x_) Kiss my butt
(_)> Want to have some coffee?
8-O Omigod!!
:{} I have big lips and I want to kiss you
>;-> I am winking in a devilish way, because I just made a lewd or suggestive remark.

There are several hundred more emoticons! Click here to see an exhaustive list...

Related article: Internet Shorthand

Here is a list of "emoticons" (emotional icons or "smileys"). Note that some of these emoticons are obvious at first glance, but others require more creative imagination on the part of the reader.

<:3)~~~~ Mouse
____/\___\o/___ Shark
:©) Piggy
(B^| Secret agent
(8<| Darth Vader
=^-.-^= Kitten, version 1
^..^ Kitten, version 2
IIIIII8^)X Cat in the Hat
©¿© Horizontal face (use Alt keystroke plus 0169, 0191, 0169)
ö¿ö Horizontal face 2 (use Alt + 148, 168, 148)
[{--Crayon--]}> crayon (especially effective when typed in different font colors)
(_)3 Beer mug
[>O Diamond ring
<;;;;;;;;;;;|===0 Sword
****:-) Marge Simpson
*<:-)> Santa Claus
-:( Punk rocker with a Mohawk
@>--->---- Rose, version 1
--<--@ Rose, version 2
12x--<--@ A dozen roses
:-[x> Count Dracula
B-] Batman
C):-) Cowboy
O>-</ Snowboarder
o{-<]: Skater Dude
==):-)= Abraham Lincoln
:-.) Cindy Crawford
:+( Scared
<:-O Eeek!; Eeek! Just saw a mouse
B*) Sunglasses smile
: ) Regular smile
:^) Regular smile with a nose
: ( Unhappy, frown
: ^( Unhappy, frown with a nose
:-P Sticking out tongue
:-p Sticking tongue out, version 2
:-p~ Heavy smoker
:-Q Tongue hanging out in disgust, or a smoker
:-Q~ Smoking
:-r Sticking tongue out, version 3
:-s What?!
:-t Unsmiley
:-V Shouting
\ ^_^ / Joyful! (Japanese)

Next: Page 4 of Emoticons and Smileys

Related article: Internet Shorthand :~-( Crying
:~/ Confused
; ) Wink
; P Wink with a raspberry
O+ Female
O-> Male
O8-) Starry-eyed angel
O:-) Angel
P* French kiss
Q:-) College graduate
:X Hear no evil
:x Kiss
:\' Crying
:\'( Crying
:\'-( Crying
:\'-) Tears of happiness
:^D Happy, approving
:`-( Shedding a tear
:{ Having a hard time
:~) A cold
;( Crying
;-( Angry, or got a black eye
;-) Winkey
;-D Winking and laughing
= O Surprised
= X My lips are sealed
IIIIII8^)X Cat in the Hat
:-X My lips are sealed; or a kiss
:-x Kiss, or My lips are sealed
:-Y Aside comment
:-[ Unsmiling blockhead; also criticism
:-\'| Sniffles
:-] Smiling blockhead; also sarcasm
:-{) Smile with moustache
:-{)} Smile with moustache and beard
:-{} Blowing a kiss
:-| Indifferent, bored or disgusted
:-| :-| Deja vu
:-|| Very angry
:-} Mischievous smile
:-~) A cold
:-~| A cold
:.( Crying
:/) Not funny
:/i No smoking
:> What?
:@ What?
:C Astonished
:e Disappointed
:P Sticking out tongue
=):-)= Abraham Lincoln
=:-) Punk, or hosehead
=====:} Snake
=^* Kisses
=^D Big grin
?( Black eye
?-( Black eye
@>--->--- A long-stemmed rose
@== Atomic bomb
@}->-- Rose
B:-) Sunglasses on head
d :-o Hats off to you!
M-) See no evil
M-), :X, :-M See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
M:-) A salute
O 8-) Starry-eyed angel
O :-) Angel
X-( Just died
[:-) Wearing a Walkman
[:-] Square head
[:-| Frankenstein
[:] Robot
[:| Frankenstein
[:|] Robot
[[ ]] Hug Insert a name in the brackets of the one who is being hugged, as: [[Marcia]]
[] Hug
\') Winky
\'-) Winky
\_/ Empty glass
\~/ Full glass
]:-> Devil
]:-) Happy devil
][ Back to back
^ ^ ^ Giggles

Next: Page 5 of Emoticons and Smileys

Related article: Internet Shorthand :p~~ I'm drooling
:-O Open-mouthed, surprised
:-o Surprised look, or yawn
%') Finished off a fifth for lunch
%) Cross-eyed; Artistic face; Picasso
%*@:-( Hung Over

%*} Very drunk %+\ Messed up; Spaced out; Effected; Scrambled; Out-to-lunch
%+{ Lost a fight
%+| Beaten up
%- Drunk with laughter
%-( Glasses broken; Sad confused; Practical joker who got beat up
%-() Monkey face
%-(I) Laughing out loud
%-(|) Laughing out loud
%-) Stared too long at monitor; Confused; Cross-eyed;
%-/ Brain dead; Hung over
%-6 Brain dead
%-<I> Drunk with laughter
%-<|> Drunk with laughter
%-\ Hung over
%-^) Pablo Picasso
%-{ Sad; Not amused
%-| Been working all night
%-} Amused
%-~ Pablo Picasso
^5 High five
`:-) Raised eyebrow
{{ }} Hug; the one whose name is in the brackets is being hugged; Example: {{MJ}}
{} No comment
|( Sleepy (on late night email message)
|-<> Puckered up for a kiss
|-( Sleepy, struggling to stay awake, or sleeping badly
|-D Big laugh
|-O Yawn
|-{ Good grief!
|-| Asleep
|I Asleep
|^o Snoring
}-) Wry smile
}: [ Angry, frustrated
}{ Face to face
~ :-( Steaming mad
~:-( Flame message
~:-\ Elvis
~:o Baby
~:\ Elvis
~= Lit candle, indicating a flame (inflammatory message)
~== Begins a flame (inflammatory message)
~~:-( Especially hot flame message
~~:[ Net flame
~~~~8} Snake
!-( Black eye
!-) Proud of black eye
#-) Wiped out, partied all night
#:-o Shocked
$-) Won the lottery, or money on the brain
%(|:-) Propeller-head
:-, Smirk
:-/ Wry face
:-6 Exhausted
:-9 Licking lips
:-? Licking lips, or tongue in cheek
:-@ Screaming
:-C Astonished
:-c Very unhappy
:-D Laughing
:-d~ Heavy smoker
:-e Disappointed
:-f Sticking out tongue
:-I Pondering, or impartial
:-i Wry smile or half-smile
:-J Tongue in cheek
:-j One-sided smile
:-k Puzzlement
:-l One-sided smile
:-M Speak no evil
%*} Inebriated
%+{ Got beat up
%-( Confused
%-) Dazed or silly
%-6 Brain-dead
%-\ Hung over
%-{ Ironic
%-| Worked all night
%-} Humorous or ironic
%\ Hangover
>>:-<< Furious
>- Female
>-> Winking devil
>-< Furious
>-) Devilish wink
>:) Little devil
>:-> Very mischievous devil
>:-< Angry
>:-< Mad
>:-( Annoyed
>:-) Mischievous devil
>=^ P Yuck
<:> Devilish expression
<:-> Devilish expression
<:-( Dunce
<:-) Innocently asking dumb question
<:-| Dunce
<:| Dunce
( 8(|) Homer
( <> .. <> ) alienated
(( )):** Hugs and kisses
((())) Lots of hugging (initials or a name can be put in the middle of the one being hugged)
() Hugging
(-: Left-handed smile, or smiley from the southern hemisphere
(:& Angry
(:- Unsmiley
(:-& Angry
(:-( Unsmiley
(:-) Smiley variation
(:-* Kiss
(:-\ Very sad
(::()::) Bandaid, meaning comfort
(:| Egghead
* Kiss
*<:-) Santa Claus
*<|:-) Santa Claus, or a clown
*-) Shot to death
+<:-) Religious leader
+<:-| Monk or nun
+<||-) Knight
+:-) Priest
+O:-) The Pope
-) Tongue in cheek
-= Snuffed candle to end a flame message
-=#:-) Wizard
/\/\/\ Laughter
0:-) Angel
12x@>--->--- A dozen roses
2B|^2B To be or not to be
5:-) Elvis
7:) Ronald Reagan
7:^) Ronald Reagan
8 Infinity
8 :-) Wizard
8) Wide-eyed, or wearing glasses
8-# Death
8-) Wide-eyed, or wearing glasses
8-o Shocked
8-O Astonished
8-P Yuck!
8-[ Frayed nerves; overwrought
8-] Wow!
8-| Wide-eyed surprise
: ( Sad
: ) Smile
: [ Bored, sad
: | Bored, sad
:( ) Loudmouth, talks all the time; or shouting
:* Kiss
:*) Clowning
:**: Returning kiss
:+( Got punched in the nose
:,( Crying
:- Male
:-# My lips are sealed; or someone wearing braces
:-& Tongue-tied
:-> Smile of happiness or sarcasm
:->< Puckered up to kiss
:-< Very sad
:-( Frown
:-) Classic smiley
:-* Kiss

Related article: Internet Shorthand

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