When it comes to IRL facial expressions, most people can do a pretty good job deciphering the message someone is conveying by their beaming smile or disappointed frown. But, in the world of emojis, things can get a tad confusing. Sure, you can “turn that frown upside down” into a smiley face — but what does it mean when someone sends you a heart eyes emoji? Should you be relieved, or concerned? As of September 2021, Emojipedia says there are over 3,000 emoji total. And, with the March 2022 addition of 37 new emojis in Apple’s iOS 15.4 update, knowing what each face emoji means has never been more complicated.
Let's start what the word "emoji" means. Did you know that it means "picture letter," or pictograph, in Japanese? Well, you do now! Think of emoji as its own alphabet, with each little face representing a specific emotion. Sure, there’s the hand emoji, cat emoji, heart emoji, and more — but it's the faces that are somehow both the most straightforward and hardest to use. You could text peace signs and exploding hearts and angry cats all the livelong day, but which version of Smiling Face does one even use, and why are there so many of them? These are the important questions, friends. And it’s time to answer them. Here's what 22 of the most commonly-encountered face emoji mean.
1. Smiling Face With Open Mouth Emoji 😀
Also known as: Smiley Face, Happy Face, "OMG My Braces Are Finally Off" Face.
Great for: Congratulations, good news, finding the bright side of bad news, excitement, joie de vivre, sarcastically pretending your life doesn't suck, just sayin' hey.
What Emojipedia says: "A yellow face with smiling eyes and a broad, open smile, showing upper teeth and tongue on some platforms. Often conveys general happiness and good-natured amusement."
2. Smiling Face With Open Mouth & Sweat Emoji 😅
Also known as: Happy Sweat Emoji, Exercise Face, "The One With The Gross-Sounding Description.”
Great for: Exercise-related messages; also moments of tension, relief, or embarrassment.
What Emojipedia says: "Intended to depict nerves or discomfort but commonly used to express a close call, as if saying Whew! and wiping sweat from the forehead."
3. Angry Face 😠
Also known as: Grumpy Face, The Grimace.
Great for: Anger, grouchiness, mean muggin', shouting "How dare you!" over text, bullying someone into giving you the pizza that they just posted on Instagram.
What Emojipedia says: "Conveys varying degrees of anger, from grumpiness and irritation to disgust and outrage. May also represent someone acting tough or being mean."
4. Neutral Face Emoji 😐
Also known as: Straight-Faced Emoji, "...."
Great for: Responding to the news that your BFF's new BF wears fedoras on the reg, "not saying anything" about your co-worker's claim that crystals healed her asthma, generally passing judgement 24/7.
What Emojipedia says: "A yellow face with simple, open eyes and a flat, closed mouth. Intended to depict a neutral sentiment but often used to convey mild irritation."
5. Face Blowing A Kiss Emoji 😘
Also known as: Kissy Face, Blow A Kiss, *Kissing Sounds*.
Great for: Sending love, being cheeky after maybe being a little ~too~ honest about something, "being nice" or whatever.
What Emojipedia says: "May represent a kiss goodbye or good night and convey feelings of love and affection more generally."
6. Winking Face Emoji 😉
Also known as: Winky Face.
Great for: Sassing everybody in your contacts list, reminding your friend who exactly she smooched at the bar last night, making non-committal sex jokes.
What Emojipedia says: "A yellow face with a slight smile shown winking, usually its left eye. May signal a joke, flirtation, hidden meaning, or general positivity. Tone varies, including playful, affectionate, suggestive, or ironic."
7. Face With Stuck Out Tongue Emoji 😛
Also known as: Cheeky Emoji, Licky Face, "LOL JK Love You" Face. Don’t forget its red-faced, thirsty cousin, Hot Face.
Great for: Goofing on your pals, alleviating that social gaffe you just made over text wherein your sarcasm translated directly and your mom actually thought you were never, ever coming home ever again.
What Emojipedia says: "A yellow face with small, open eyes and a big grin, playfully sticking out its tongue. Can variously convey a sense of fun, excitement, silliness, cuteness, happiness, or jesting, as if saying Just kidding!"
8. Smiling Face With Heart Eyes Emoji 😍
Also known as: Heart Eyes, Love Face, "ASOS Is Having A Big, Big Sale" Emoji.
Great for: Expressing your love for people, expressing your love for things, expressing your love for food, conning people into buying you things and food.
What Emojipedia says: "A yellow face with an open smile, sometimes showing teeth, and red, cartoon-styled hearts for eyes. Often conveys enthusiastic feelings of love, infatuation, and adoration, e.g., I love/am in love with this person or thing."
9. (Loudly) Crying Face Emoji 😭
Also known as: Bawling, Crying, Sobbing.
Great for: Sad stuff, or things that are so hilarious that they have you crying with laughter.
What Emojipedia says: "A yellow face with an open mouth wailing and streams of heavy tears flowing from closed eyes. May convey inconsolable grief but also other intense feelings, such as uncontrollable laughter or overwhelming joy."
Use it literally; use it sarcastically; either way, we get the point. It's pretty straightforward.
10. Face With Tears Of Joy Emoji 😂
Also known as: Laughing Tears
Great for: Reacting to the hilarious meme your bestie sent you or your opponent's weak insult in the middle of a Twitter fight. (Though if you’re Gen Z, you’re more likely to use the skull emoji for this.)
What Emojipedia says: A yellow face with a big grin, uplifted eyebrows, and smiling eyes, each shedding a tear from laughing so hard. Widely used to show something is funny or pleasing.
11. Upside-Down Smiley Face Emoji 🙃
Also known as: Sarcastic Face, Awkward Face
Great for: Reacting to someone’s statement that deserves a sarcastic response, or you feel awkward and are stuck on what to say.
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow face with simple, open eyes and a thin, closed smile. Conveys a wide range of positive, happy, and friendly sentiments. Its tone can also be patronizing, passive-aggressive, or ironic, as if saying This is fine when it’s really not.”
12. Pleading Face Emoji 🥺
Also known as: Begging, Glossy Eyes, Simp
Great for: Asking for a favor, or thanking someone.
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow face with furrowed eyebrows, a small frown, and large, “puppy dog” eyes, as if begging or pleading. May also represent adoration or feeling touched by a loving gesture.”
13. Face With Spiral Eyes Emoji 😵💫
Also known as: Hypnotized, Disastrous, Under The Influence
Great for: The disastrous past year, a trippy substance, or when you’re feeling totally out of it.
What Emojipedia says: “A face showing a spiral eyes, commonly used to indicate dizziness, but may also represent hypnosis or other forms of disorientation.”
14. Face In The Clouds Emoji 😶🌫️
Also known as: Brain Fog, Forgetful, Haze
Great for: Literally not knowing what is going on.
What Emojipedia says: “A face that appears surrounded by clouds or a haze of smoke. Ambiguous in appearance, this may represent a foggy state of mind, confusion, or even a sense of calm bliss.”
15. Star-Struck Face Emoji 🤩
Also known as: Excited, Star Eyes, Starry Eyed, Wow Face
Great for: An encounter with a celebrity, or you’re totally wowed.
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow face with a broad, open smile, showing upper teeth on most platforms, with stars for eyes, as if seeing a beloved celebrity. Color of stars widely varies by platform, though commonly gold or red. May express that someone or something is amazing, fascinating, impressive, or exciting.”
16. Hand Over Mouth Emoji 🤭
Also known as: Surprised Face, Gasp, Oops Face, “Hehe”
Great for: When you’re surprised by something but the Scream-esque emoji feels too dramatic; when you have an “Oops” moment.
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow face with a hand covering its mouth. Displays most often with smiling eyes and/or blushing cheeks, suggesting coy laughter or embarrassment, as if cheekily saying Oops!"
17. Melting Face Emoji
Also known as: There’s honestly not many better ways to describe this one.
Great for: Similar to the upside-down smile, this emoji’s great for sarcasm. Instances where you’re sinking into shame, drowning in work, or melting in hot weather.
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow smiley face melting into a puddle. The eyes and mouth slip down the face, yet still maintain a distorted smile. This quality lends this emoji to sarcasm. Can be used literally to talk about extreme heat. Can also be used metaphorically to talk about embarrassment, shame, or a slowly sinking sense of dread.”
18. Eyes Covered Emoji
Also known as: Peeking emoji
Great for: When you can’t look away from something like a train wreck; when you’re sneaking a peek respectfully; when you’re jokingly trying to hide.
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow face with its hands over its eyes and raised eyebrows. One wide eye is peeking through the fingers.”
19. Saluting Emoji
Also known as: Respect emoji, “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” emoji.
Great for: When you want to salute someone out of respect, or want to sarcastically salute someone in solidarity of their bravery (i.e., your friend fighting through a killer hangover).
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow face with its right hand saluting. Used as a sign of respect.”
20. Dotted Line Face Emoji
Also known as: Vanishing emoji
Great for: When you feel like disappearing or being invisible.
What Emojipedia says: “A muted yellow neutral face with a dotted or dashed outline. An established comic book trope, dotted lines around a character can represent someone that is invisible or hidden. It can also represent smallness, submissiveness, isolation, and depression.”
21. Slanted Frown Emoji
Also known as: Diagonal mouth emoji, “Welp” emoji
Great for: When you’re feeling disappointed, frustrated, or “Meh.”
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow face with a closed slanted mouth. Can be used to express skepticism, confusion, or frustration.”
22. Smiling While Holding Back Tears Emoji
Also known as: Smiling through the pain, happy tears, simp face gone wrong
Great for: When you’re overcome with complicated emotions — for good or for bad.
What Emojipedia says: “A yellow face with tears welling up at the bottom of its two large eyes. May be used to express a range of emotions including sadness, anger, embarrassment, admiration, and gratitude.”
Well, there you have it, folks — a rundown of some of the most commonly-encountered face emoji out in the wild. If you want to check out the rest of the dozens of face emoji at your fingertips and dig into their deeper meanings, you can do a quick search on Emojipedia, which has been saving us all from our technologically-confused selves since the dawn of emoji texting.
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