The Most Popular Emoticons (+ A Brief History)

Emoticons can help people express their actual mood in chats, emails, or messages, all without using any actual words. These cool symbols in the form of faces and actions can help bring text to life. 

Since the first emoticons came onto the scene, there have been dozens of creative text emoticons in both Western styles (think: :|) or Kaomojis (for example: (^-^)). Read on to learn more about the difference between emojis and emoticons, the history of the emoticon, and some of the most popular emoticons still used today. 

The Most Popular Emoticons (+ A Brief History):

What’s the Difference Between an Emoji and an Emoticon? 

The Internet has changed the way we communicate, and the creation of both emoticons and emojis have become an important way to convey nuanced meaning in written text across online mediums. One peer-reviewed study from PLOS ONE found that emojis are an effective way for relationship-oriented digital communication. 

The new-age hieroglyphic languages, emojis and emoticons, have become a critical way to communicate. Most people will use these words interchangeably, but they’re not the same. So what’s the difference between the two?

It boils down to this: Those emojis you use every day first started out as emoticons. 

Let’s start with the older of the two. The emoticon, first invented in 1982, is made up of punctuation marks, letters, and numbers. These characters work together to build a pictorial icon that will display an emotion or sentiment.  In fact, “emoticon” actually means emotional icon. 

However, unlike emojis, emoticons will often need to be read sideways to understand the full effect. Emoticons started as 🙂 or 🙁 but over the following decades, they have evolved to become much more advanced and complex. People have created nuanced and huge emoticons like ヘ( ^o^)ノ\(^_^ ) to convey meaning where emojis simply won’t cut it. In fact, while much emotional communication nowadays is all about the emoji, there’s been a popular resurgence of emoticons. 

Emojis, on the other hand, have a much more complex background. The word “emoji” comes from the Japanese e (which means picture) and moji, (which means character). These fun faces and items, often seen as pictographs or mini, modern-day hieroglyphics, are a much more recent invention. 

In modern times, emojis are often seen in the distinct style of Apple’s emoji, complete with yellow cartoon faces, mini fact faces, food objects, and more. 

But the history of the emoji started way before Apple’s emojis took off. 

Emojis were first invented in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita. The pictographs were first intended for the Japanese user base, inspired by manga art, and the first emojis were very simple - just 12 pixels by 12 pixels. 

The popularity of emojis only grew as time progressed, especially with the invention of the smartphone. In fact, in order to attract Japanese customers, Apple hid a surprise emoji keyboard in their first iPhone in 2007. Nowadays, every messaging app has its own distinct keyboard, too.

Since then, emojis have become available in just about every smartphone or mobile application. They’ve become a popular way to communicate feelings. In fact, one Adobe study found that 88% of emoji users are more likely to feel empathetic towards someone if they use an emoji in their message. Another study found that the use of emojis between students and teachers helped satisfy their emotional needs. 

So if you come across a smiling pile of poo or a cartoon purple eggplant on your phone, that’s an emoji. However, if you come across a character-based smiley face, that’s an emoticon. 

How Do People Use Emojis and Emoticons? 

Both emojis and emoticons are essential ways for people to communicate their emotions in chat and messages. These characters help convey a certain sentiment that words cannot portray. People use emojis and emoticons in fun, light-hearted contexts. It is generally agreed that in most circumstances, emojis and emoticons are not appropriate for the academic world and for a context that demands a professional, objective voice. 

The History of Emoticons 

The first emoticon was invented by Scott E. Fahlman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. No one really knows exactly who was the first person to start using emoticons, but Professor Falhman was the first person to popularize it - and he’s credited with inventing the emoticon as a result. The computer science professor in Pennsylvania first started using emoticons when messaging on computer networks. Fahlman made history when he first used a sideways smiley face with two eyes and a nose on September 19, 1982.  

Professor Fahlman used these characters at the time to denote whether the post was supposed to be serious, sarcastic, or funny. At the time, he recalls, most students and faculty were struggling to understand the intent of the post. His solution: Make it obvious. 

The original message to faculty goes as such:

19-Sep-82 11:44    Scott E  Fahlman             🙂

From: Scott E  Fahlman  

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 quirky characters - later called emoticons - quickly began to spread across computer network messaging, bulletin boards, and other campus systems. But they spread to other universities and research labs within several months. 

The emoticons quickly gained popularity, and within just a few months, others started making different “smileys” and the number of available emoticons grew exponentially. 

Many people nowadays argue that these so-called emoticons were used for years before Professor Fahlman popularized them. In fact, Professor Falhman agrees. It’s a simple and obvious idea that people were turning characters into faces well before he began to use them at Carnegie Mellon. 

Professor Falhman remains widely credited as the creator of the emoji. 

The Best Emoticons

Text-based emoticons work on every device and browser, so they are a little simpler to use than emojis. Whether you plan to comment on a post or text a friend, these popular emoticons are the perfect option when words won’t cut it. 

1. The Most Popular Emoticons 

These three emoticons are consistently ranked among the most popular emotions. 


( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)


2. The Table Flipping Text Emoticons

(╯°Д°)╯︵ /(.□ . \)

ʕノ•ᴥ•ʔノ ︵ ┻━┻

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

┻━┻ ︵ ヽ(°□°ヽ)

┬─┬ノ( º _ ºノ)

(ノಥ益ಥ)ノ ┻━┻

┬──┬ ¯\_(ツ)

┻━┻ ︵ヽ(`Д´)ノ︵ ┻━┻

┻━┻ ︵ ¯\(ツ)/¯ ︵ ┻━┻

┻━┻ ︵ \( °□° )/ ︵ ┻━┻

3. Angry Text Emoticons 







4. Animal Text Emoticons



ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ


=^● ⋏ ●^=

5. Happy and Excited Text Emoticons

ヘ( ^o^)ノ\(^_^ )

(. ❛ ᴗ ❛.)


( ͡ᵔ ͜ʖ ͡ᵔ )


( 。・_・。)人(。・_・。 )

└(^o^ )X( ^o^)┘





6. WTF Text Emoticons

╮ (. ❛ ᴗ ❛.) ╭







( ͡° ʖ̯ ͡°)

7. “Just Deal With It” Text Emoticons


( •_•)



8. Handy Text Emoticons

( ͡?️ ͜ʖ ͡?️)✊


9. Food & Drink Text Emoticons

( ͝° ͜ʖ͡°)つY

( ˘▽˘)っ♨

( o˘◡˘o) ┌iii┐

10. Funny Emoticons

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

̿̿ ̿̿ ̿̿ ̿'̿'\̵͇̿̿\з= ( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀) =ε/̵͇̿̿/'̿'̿ ̿ ̿̿ ̿̿ ̿̿ ▄︻̷̿┻̿═━一

( ͡°( ͡° ͜ʖ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)ʖ ͡°) ͡°) ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ

(▀̿Ĺ̯▀̿ ̿) (ง ͠° ͟ل͜ ͡°)ง

༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ ಠ_ಠ

(づ。 ◕‿‿◕。) づ ̿'̿'\̵͇̿̿\з=( ͠° ͟ʖ ͡°)=ε/̵͇̿̿/'̿̿ ̿ ̿ ̿ ̿ ̿

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ ✧゚・: *ヽ(◕ヮ◕ヽ) [̲̅$̲̅(̲̅5̲̅)̲̅$̲̅]

┬┴┬┴┤ ͜ʖ ͡°) ├┬┴┬┴ ( ͡°╭͜ʖ╮͡° )

11. Music Text Emoticons


(〜 ̄▽ ̄)〜    〜( ̄▽ ̄〜)

( ̄▽ ̄)/♫•*¨*•.¸¸♪




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