Oh, emojis. Truly, where would we be without them? They not only add a little unique flavor and pizzazz to the blue and grey bubbles of our lives, but they also create some clarity around the confusing sentiments behind the many messages we send and receive on a daily basis. Key word: some, because there are a fuckton of meanings behind each and every emoji (yes, even the classic happy face — it’s smug, I don’t trust it). Here’s hoping this exhaustive list of the symbolism behind smileys and beyond helps solve things once and for all 😜🤷♀️.
1. Upside-down smiley 🙃
This is a very sarcastic smiley, sure to follow — or even sandwich — a message like, “I’m fine, everything’s fine” when, in reality, everything is most certainly not fine, because your life is within an inch of imploding. If someone is having one of those days where everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong, you’re probably seeing one of these little dudes.
2. Monocle man 🧐
If you’re sent this curious creature, the sender has opened an investigation and there are about 10 people working on the case. This could have nothing or everything to do with you. If it’s the former, your friend is probably sending you a screenshot of a confusing text from someone they just went on a date with. If it’s the latter, congrats, you are the person they went on that date with, and they’re A. super befuddled about what you just said, B. offended and wondering why you would say such a thing, C. A fancy person who wears one-lensed ocular devices or D. all of the above.
3. Grimace 😬
According to a quick Google search, a grimace is defined as “an ugly, twisted expression on a person’s face, typically expressing disgust, pain, or wry amusement.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but this emoji says something completely different. It is used when you’re telling someone you need to cancel at the last minute because you have a case of I-don’t-want-to-be-around-people. Or if you’re recounting the story of something particularly awkward like when you’re walking down a hallway at work and you have to look at the floor because it’d be weird making eye contact from 200 feet away for a painstaking full minute. If neither of those scenarios sound quite right, chances are it’s a loose picture of me grinding my teeth at night because I refuse to wear my mouthguard, which, by the way, is very large and unpleasant.
4. Smirk 😏
Mom, don’t read this one, because what I’m about to say isn’t kosher. This is a very horny emoji! It’s employed when you’re saying something that is NSFW and want to be extremely obvious about your nuanced innuendo. See? Horny. In my field research, I’ve also seen this used when you get lucky (no, not in that way, you fiend). I’m talking about when you want your friend to know you struck dining-hall gold à la “I just got a bonus onion ring in my fries 😏.”
5. Side-eye 😒
This is me in emoji form. She’s sassy, and she’s trying to tell you that she’s not here for that rude comment you just made. Also, she’ll definitely let you know that Shake Shack forgot her side of cheese for her cheese fries (it’s literally in the name of the item, people!). This emoji also comes in handy when you’re talking mad shit about someone and want to drive home that they were being a doofus.
6. Throw up 🤮
If you get this, maybe the person you’re talking to had one too many pieces of pizza and doesn’t feel well. But, more likely, you just said something super cringe-y and that person is having a visceral reaction to your comment. Or maybe they really hate your outfit in the pic you just sent them. Whether it’s something you said, did, or wore, they think you’re trash, and getting this emoji is bad news.
7. Shrug 🤷🏻♀️
If you receive a shrugging Susan, the sender has no idea what the fuck to say, probably because you’re complaining to no end about an issue that concerns no one but yourself and they do not want to hear one more word of it. Susan says, “eh, what can ya do?”, “ya, IDK, man”, “tough shit”, and more all in one two-handed gesture. She’s a no-bullshit gal.
8. Cowboy 🤠
Yee — and I cannot stress this enough — haw. Cowboy emoji is here for a good time, not a long time. This pops up when someone wants to stress that they’re smiling and happy, because what’s more happy than wearing a cowboy hat? It can also be used to diffuse an otherwise impolite message. Want to tell someone they’re pissing you off? Throw in CB (cowboy). Want to let your roommate know that they left their dishes in the sink for more than 24 hours (again)? CB is the perfect way to say it with a smile (and a cute-as-hell accessory).
9. Wizardess 🧙♀️
I love this woman. Not only does she know everything, but she also practices magic, which, coincidentally, is exactly how I explain myself to people. That being said, the wizardess appears when she has some sage words to share and wants to make sure you know she is better and wiser than you. She is also summoned when a message needs a little supernatural flair, which is often.
10. Crouching monkey 🐒
Crouching monkey is a naughty little thing. He just did something sneaky that he knows he shouldn’t have, like go through his coworkers desk to confirm that they did, in fact, take his stapler. Or, he’s patiently waiting your reply, squatting until you respond. He looks harmless, but he’s actually pissed you haven’t answered. (Go do that.)
11. Weird Man In Suit🕴🏻
Honestly, this is an extremely underrated emoji. He’s popping up from (or shooting down into) the little black hole beneath his feet right after he reads you for filth. Basically, he’s RuPaul at a black-tie affair. He means business. Also, including him can have the same effect as sharing the Homer Simpson in a bush meme, signifying disappearing into the underworld when you say something embarrassing. Come to think of it, this little man may be levitating and that black hole may be his shadow, in which case, I got nothin’.
12. Cartwheel 🤸🏼♀️
This is a fun-loving emoji that follows phrases like, “I just had McDonald’s for lunch,” “I just spent $700 at Target and now am below-zero, but like, those throw pillows, ya know?”, or “My boss told me I could leave at 4:30 today.” It embodies the don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that an IRL cartwheel oozes — you might fall on your face and break your neck, but you’ll have fun doing it.
13. Surfer 🏄🏻♀️
Surfer emoji slides into your messages when someone’s trying to be chill. This could be because they actually are “The Dude” level cool or because they’re trying to act like they don’t care when they really, really do. They might write, “Hey, just checking in to see if you made that reservation yet, no worries if not, just wondering! 🏄🏻♀” Translation: If you didn’t make the effing reservation yet, I’m going to lose my shit, but I want you to know that I’m not that type A, so here’s a cute girl catching a wave. The surfer can also be used in a similar scenario as the cartwheel — it just depends if you’re feeling more land or water sport that day.
14. Horny Moon 🌝
This is by far the horniest emoji on the keyboard. Yes. Hornier than the smirk. Why, you ask? Just look at the face. That face is waiting to detail every moment of its sexual history with you. Sending it also makes someone stand out amongst the smirk-senders of the world — it says that they’re down but also not basic.
15. Facepalm 🤦♂️
I can literally hear the sound of a slap against a forehead as I’m typing this. Facepalm knows its place and isn’t afraid to call itself out when it just did something that it shouldn’t have. We stan a self-aware king. This mindful emoji says a slew of things:
- “I just did/said something really dumb.”
- “You just did/said something really dumb.”
- “I have a migraine.”
- “There’s a group of pimples that just colonized below my hairline that I don’t want you to see.”
- “I hate everyone and everything. And I’m also hungry. And I’m tired. And the real reason I’m getting those pimples is because I keep doing this.”
None of these are super fun. I don’t make the rules.
16. ?? 🍢
Literally no one I know knows what this means, and I’d guess it’s one of the least-used emojis, right behind the 🗳(Is it a tissue box? Casting a ballot? *cough cough* Vote in 2020 *cough cough*. Who’s to say?) My best guess is that this is a medieval emoji suggestive of jousting, and you would use it when you’re fighting with someone and just made your point. It’s basically a 14th century mic drop.