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An emoticon, also called a smiley, is a sequence of ASCII printable characters used to represent a human face and express an emotion. Emoticons that express happy or positive emotions are typically classified as smileys. Emoticons are commonly used in email messages, in bulletin boards, or in chat.

Emoticon is a comparative neologism. It is a portmanteau word based on emotion and icon.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Purposes
3 Western style
4 East Asian style
5 External links


The creator of the original ASCII emoticons ":-)" and ":-(" was Scott Fahlman; the original proposal made by Fahlman on CMU CS general board on September 19 1982 (at 11:44) was retrieved from old backup tapes on September 10 2002 by Jeff Baird.

The earliest known non-ASCII emoticons were used in the PLATO IV program as early as 1972, which allowed users to type multiple text characters "on top" of each other. Many combinations of ordinary text characters were known to produce face-like patterns, which were used as emoticons.


Emoticons have developed over the years as a replacement for facial expressions and emotions, as a way to cope with the limitations of being forced to communicate in text only, without misunderstandings due to the lack of information. Books have been written on this subject, with endless listings of a multitude of emoticons.

In an Internet forum, emoticons are often automatically replaced with small corresponding images. In some versions of Microsoft Word, the AutoCorrect feature recognizes basic smilies such as :) and :(

Western style

To more easily recognise them, put your head on either your left or right shoulder, depending on whether the "top" of the emoticon is on the left or the right.

Basic examples

:-) or :) or =)       smile (a smiley)
   rarely (:
   never =-)
:-( or )-: or :(      frown: sadness or sympathy
:/                    somewhat unhappy/discontent
:|                    serious
:-D or :D             wide grin
:-P or :p             tongue sticking out: joke or sarcasm
;-) or (-; or ;)      wink
B-) or 8-)            has (sun)glasses: looking cool
:-o or :o             expresses surprise
:-7                   tongue in cheek (rare)
XD                    laugh
:\\/                   big mouth


There are endless possibilities, because people are very good at creating and interpreting pictures as faces. See
ASCII art.

A few people turn the smiley around, a "left handed" smiley (: This left-handed smiley can sometimes cause miscommunication though, since some hardcore netaddicts tend to drop the : representing the eyes [leaving ) instead of :) ] so what you intendend like a smile could be interpreted as a frown. Generally people who communicate this way a lot subconsciously think: "Caption close = smile Caption open = sad face"

As more of a joke than anything—but also as a political statement—"frownies", the symbol :-(, were trademarked by Despair, Inc in U.S. Trademark Serial No. 75502288, Registration No. 2347676. The trademark applies only to "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints" and has never been enforced in a court of law.

Detailed emoticons

 =8-0            fright
 =8-@=(&)        one with a tapeworm
                 (credited to Dave Barry)
 d:^)            baseball player
 +-<:-)          The pope 
 *<|:o)>  or     Santa Claus
 *<|:{ )         
 7:^]            Ronald Reagan
 @@@@:^)         Marge Simpson
 (___8(V) or     Homer Simpson

East Asian style

Several East Asians and many from
North America and Europe use the "Japanese emoticons", which can be understood without turning one's head to the left. It's usually in the format of _, where the superscripts indicate the eyes, and the in-between character, usually an underscore, is the mouth. When a period is used for the mouth, it is often meant to make the person look cuter.

Basic examples

^_^ or ^.^                   smiley
~_~ or ~.~                   content
`_^ or `.^ or 、_^            wink
>_< or >.<                   angry
^o^                          excited
\\^o^/                        very excited (raising hands into the air)
*_* or *.*                   starry eyed (amazed)
-_- or -.-                   annoyed (trying to hide annoyance)
;_; or ;.;                   crying
T_T or T.T                   flowing tears
o_O or O_o or O.o or o.O     surprise
O_O or O.O                   big surprise
@_@ or @.@                   confused

Complex example

=^.^=           blushing, or a cat face (mischievous)
<<@_@>>         drunk with vertigo
...~*.*~...     girl with braids
~~~~>_<~~~~     weeping horribly
^_^; or ^.^;    small sweatdrop (embarrassed)
^_^U or ^.^U    huge sweat drop (anime-like)
^_^a            scratching head

Kirby series

Q(''Q)                       Boxing Kirby
O-(''Q)                      Kirby taking a punch
O*'Q)                        Kirby blocking
q('')                        Thumbs down Kirby
('')b                        Thumbs up Kirby
<(^ ^)>                      Happy Kirby
(* *) or (x x)               Dead Kirby
<(o 0)>                      Confused Kirby
t(''t)                       Kirby giving the Middle finger

External links