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An emoticon consisting of: colon , hyphen and round, closing bracket

As emoticon ([ emo: Tikon ] or English [. Ɪməʊtɪkɒn ]) are individual characters or sequences of ASCII characters referred to in the written communication to express mood or emotional states.

The term emoticon is a portmanteau word formed from Emot ion and Icon . Emoticons are used both in casual digital correspondence, e.g. B. via e-mail , instant messaging , SMS , in forum discussions and when chatting , as well as occasionally in colloquial handwritten communication.

The most common emoticons are smileys . If emoticons are composed of several characters, they are mostly line images of faces that have been rotated by 90 degrees. The emoticon, :-)for example, is a smiling face::-). Some programs (e.g. instant messengers such as ICQ or Skype ) generate a corresponding graphic smiley when typing typical emoticon character combinations, whereby bright yellow specimens without a nose have often prevailed, e.g. B. the emoticon becomes :-)the graphic Friendly smiley, as an emoticon :).

Concept history and delimitation

The term emoticon was borrowed from English in the mid-1990s and was also used in German print media in 1996 at the latest. The word was finally included in the Duden in 2000.

The use of the term is inconsistent. Sometimes it only includes ASCII character combinations such as :-), sometimes it also includes smiley Unicode characters, sometimes only human gestures are meant, sometimes any stylized objects of single-line ASCII art such as a rose @}-,-'-,--and a red herring ><(((°> as well Emojis because of the similar sound of the words and because of their largely identical function and handling.

The Kaomojis from Japan are a special form of emoticons (see section Japanese Emoticons ), which also mostly represent stylized smileys and which are not turned on their side.


Emoticons from a March 30, 1881 issue of the satirical magazine Puck

With the original form of emoticons, the stick figure's face , experimented typesetter in previous centuries using punctuation marks (see figure) or letters .

Telegraphic drawing art

Even after the introduction of the type printing telegraph by David Edward Hughes , some stylized faces from the existing types were used, such as the telegraphic drawing art shown here (published in the Deutsche Postzeitung , Volume VII (No. 22), November 16, 1896, p. 497) clarified.

A kind of rediscovery of these mini emotional pictures took place in 1963, when the commercial artist Harvey Ball designed “his” smiley. The code page 437 , better known as the original character set of the IBM PC in 1981, contained Smileys (01: and 02: as a representation of the ASCII - control characters SOH and STX) in the form of pixel graphics of the respective fonts , which later the Unicode system was integrated as U + 263A and U + 263B and supplemented by a sad emoticon: ☹ (U + 2639). In 2011, Unicode 6.0 introduced more emoticons encoded from U + 1F600 to U + 1F64F.

On September 19, 1982, the scientist and later computer science professor suggested Scott Fahlman of ironic misunderstandings and jokes in a bulletin board of the Carnegie Mellon University before from ASCII characters which now become world famous logo of a sideways simulated laughter to use. This proposal spread through the Arpanet to the Xerox Research Center PARC ( California ). This post was long considered lost. After extensive research, Jeff Baird managed to find the original message from Fahlman on September 10, 2002 on a backup tape from 1982:

19-Sep-82 11:44  Scott E Fahlman       :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use


The text part of the message is roughly called in German:

Ich schlage die folgende Zeichenfolge vor, um Scherze zu kennzeichnen:


Lest es seitwärts. Eigentlich ist es bei der gegenwärtigen Entwicklung
vermutlich rationeller, Sachen zu markieren, die KEINE Scherze sind.
Benutzt dafür


In December 2008, the head of the Russian advertising company Superfone , Oleg Teterin, tried to have the wink emoticon ;-) trademarked at the patent office in Moscow in order to collect license fees. The patent office refused because it was not a trademark .

Function of emoticons

Emoticons are an important method for Internet communication participants to make their emotional state clear. The Internet communication is in contrast to the direct communication ( English : Face-to-Face Communication) with no visible counterpart, whose gestures , facial expressions and vocal expression could be interpreted to next to the word content information on the setting for comparison, statements about the veracity and importance of Statement as well as the emotional state. The social role of the speaker (gender, approximate age, skin color, clothing, hairstyle, etc.) also provides clues about the meaning of the language content. For example, an ironic statement in the written form can often not be understood from the word content alone. Emoticons help to clarify the context of the meaning of the statements. Unlike other forms of text-based communication, such as letters , strangers often meet on the Internet. This makes it even more difficult to decipher the context of meaning. The emoticons should help to reduce the number of misunderstandings.

"Left-handed" emoticons are used less frequently: They are written so that they are mirrored vertically so that the head would have to be tilted to the right to read, for example (-:and )-:. This can be used to refer to the handedness of the user .

Emoticon variants meaning Corresponding
legible to the right legible to the left
:-) :) =) :] :> :c) x) :o) (-: (: (= [: <: c: (x (o: smiling face, expression of joy
Friendly smiley, as an emoticon :)
:-( :( =( :[ :< :/ x( :o( :C )-: ): )= ]: >: \: )x )o: D: sad face, expression of anger or disappointment
Sad smiley, as an emoticon :(
:'( :'C ;( )': D': ); crying face, expression of sadness
Crying smiley, as an emoticon: '(
;-) ;) ;] ;o) (-; (; [; (o; Winking in the eye means something like "Don't take it so seriously!"
Winking smiley, as an emoticon;)
:-P :b :p =P :P xP ;-P :oP ( dx:Þ :þ ) d-: d: q: d= d; c(: Stick out your tongue, be naughty
Smiley sticking out tongue, as an emoticon: P
:-D ;D :D =D xD XD :oD - Loud laughter , you anlachend; also: grin
Grinning smiley, as an emoticon: D
:-0 :-o :o :O =O :0 =o 0-: o-: o: O= 0: o= Amazed face, expression of surprise
Surprised smiley, as an emoticon: O

Extended forms

Japanese emoticons

While the image is rotated by 90 degrees with the traditional emoticons in the West, this is not the case with Japanese emoticons, kaomojis , and emojis in general .

Emojis are not limited to emotions , but also include symbols for plants (?), animals (?), food (?) and drinks (?) or weather conditions (?). That part of the emojis which is intended to express emotional states and which corresponds most closely to western smileys is called Kaomoji ( Japanese 顔 文字 or か お も じ face characters ); if the characters are animated, also as Kaoani (Japanese 顔 ア ニ face animation or animated face ), or generally just briefly as Kao (Japanese face ).

Since around the year 2000, Kaomojis and emojis have also been increasingly found in the West in Internet Relay Chat and are particularly popular with young people. Japanese emoticons expand the range of expressions, as they often not only consist of ASCII characters, but also Japanese characters, especially katakana .

Modern Japanese mobile phones, for example, have dozens of emoticons stored for short messages and convert the respective key words ("howl", "sorry") into emoticons instead of Kanji . They also offer specially coded, partly moving icons with a variety of motifs, for example a hamburger , exploding fireworks, a national flag or a couple kissing.

Because of the restraint in facial expressions, which is traditional in Japan, the Japanese concentrate more on the eyes in order to read the emotions of a counterparty on the face, while Americans concentrate more on the mouth, which manifests itself in a greater variation of the symbols used for the eyes in the emojis .

(^_^) open laughter
(^.^) cautiously smiling (hiding teeth)
\(^_^)/ Banzai! (Hurray!) (With arms) (smaller version: \ o /)
(^_^)/" Waving
(^_~) Squint / wink
(-.-) find something stupid or boring
d(^_^)b Listen to music or "thumbs up" (thumbs up = applaud or express approval)
(*_*) to rave about something with sparkling eyes
\(*-*)/ cheering / raving about something with sparkling eyes
(+_°) being intoxicated or drunk
(TT-TT) (;_;) cry
(>_<) Eye zukneifendes face: Ouch !, be angry (now also be found as a "normal" emoticon: >.<)
(^)(>.<)(^) Two middle fingers: "You can me," expression of dislike
(-_-) annoyed
(ô_ó) to doubt something
(q_q) tears in the eyes
(ò_ó) bad face
(ó_ò) sad, worried face
(ô_o) raise an eyebrow, doubt
(O_O) very astonished, shocked
(^_^)" (^_^;) be ashamed, have compassion
(ó_O) (o_O) be skeptical, not understand something
(3>_<3) (♥_♥) be in love, rave about something
(._.); be very ashamed
(X.X) passed out or the like
(+.+) not quite with the point
(ö_ö) smile with eyelashes
(~_~) be disgusted
(@_@) confused
uwu UwU joy
owo OwO Wide eyes, expression of amazement
(,,,)---=^.^=---(,,,) cat
\m/(-.-)\m/ two fists for: rock'n'roll or metal, see Mano cornuta
'-'´(ò_ó) bad rocker
´'`\_(ò_Ó)_/´'` Zombie, monster, etc.
"\/(o_O)\/" to be ignorant, to have no idea
///´0`/// excited moans, red cheeks
\,,/(-_-)\,,/ Keep rockin '

Sometimes, however, the emoticons ^ _ ^, ^. ^ And ^^ are only perceived and used as a happy face. Often, to save time, the face borders are left out: ^.^instead of (^.^)or ^_^"instead of (^_^)". Shorter emoticons of this type are ^^(smile), òó(evil look) oO(not understand something) or <_< / >_>(annoyed or irritated sidelong glance).

But there is also the reverse variant. Emoticons are elongated many times over to increase expression:

  • ^___________^ grin wide,
  • ;___________; cry,
  • .___________. be puzzled.

Korean emoticons

In South Korea, emoticons are usually expressed using Korean letters .

ㅋㅋㅋ kekeke ; laugh like lol
ㅠ_ㅠ cry
ㅎㅎㅎ hehehe ; laugh
ㅎㅁㅎ to sing

Automatic display of emoticons as smileys

Since the 2010s, newer programs and mobile phones have been converting emoticons automatically into a graphic, then called a smiley , by instant messenger software, web forums or e-mail and news clients. When an emoticon is converted to a graphic, it contains more image information than the minimalist original emoticon. Therefore, one and the same emoticon can convey different "emotions" depending on the translating program, some of which differ greatly from one another and can also deviate from the intended message. For example, a heart that is depicted in light pink and with soft shapes has a completely different effect than a flaming red, wildly curved variant. The common simple form would be <3. Since with the programs mentioned above, the sender of the message has no influence on which program the recipient uses and u. If you don't know how this converts the emoticons, there is a risk of misunderstandings .

Nowadays, smileys are used almost exclusively in internet forums , mostly in various variations. There are also websites that offer hundreds of these graphic emoticons for linking. The above-mentioned misunderstandings are limited to the interpretation of the recipient, since the sender of the message selects the smiley and it is identical on both sides. Also animated graphics are not uncommon. Sign milies are smileys that hold a sign and thus give users the opportunity to include an additional text message.



  • Freyler: The meaning of emoticons under contract law , JA 2018, 732 - 736.

Web links

Further information

Wiktionary: Emoticon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Emoticon directories

Wiktionary: Directory: International / Smileys  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Smiley  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Pons entry "Emoticon" , accessed June 23, 2015
  2. Joachim Grzega found that these characters are occasionally also found exactly copied in handwritten communication (cf. Joachim Grzega: Some Observations on E-Mail Style vs. Traditional Style . In: Paper on Linguistics . Volume 60 , 1999, p. 3-16 (English). )
  3. DWDS - Search for `Emoticon '(reference and newspaper corpora (aggregated)). DWDS , accessed on August 24, 2017 .
  4. Frank Möcke: Neuer Duden: EDP terms become common property. In: heise online . August 23, 2000. Retrieved August 24, 2017 .
  5. ^ Duden entry "Emoticon" , accessed June 23, 2015
  6. a b Unicode 6.0 Standard: Emoticons (PDF, English; 129 kB)
  7. Unicode Emoji FAQ # 2: Are emoji the same thing as emoticons? unicode.org (Eng.)
  8. see discussion page , note from Norbert Reetz.
  9. Danny Kringiel: Millions for a Smile . Mirror online. April 11, 2011. Retrieved October 22, 2011: "The smiley made many people rich - just not its creator"
  10. Smiley Lore :-) - Scott Fahlman on "his" emoticon (German translation → here ( memento from March 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive )).
  11. Konrad Lischka: 25 Years Sideways Smiley. In: Spiegel Online . August 6, 2007, accessed April 29, 2008 .
  12. Original Bboard Thread in which :-) was proposed , cs.cmu.edu
  13. Russia: The wink smiley remains free , Focus online
  14. Inken B. Spreda: linkshaenderseite.de ( Memento of the original from February 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed March 2, 2011. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.linkshaenderseite.de
  15. Wiktionary: de: grin
  16. Unicode Emoji FAQ # 1: What are emoji? unicode.org (Eng.)
  17. Takahiko Masuda, William W. Maddux, Masaki Yuki: Are the windows to the soul the same in the East and West? Cultural differences in using the eyes and mouth as cues to recognize emotions in Japan and the United States. In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 43, No. 2, March 2007, pp. 303-311, doi: 10.1016 / j.jesp.2006.02.004 .
  18. ↑ and so on at Know Your Meme
  19. Notices Bulge / OwO What's This? at Know Your Meme
  20. ^ K-POP DICTIONARY: Expressing Emotions Using Hangul. In: MTVK. November 10, 2010, accessed February 24, 2011 .