Emoticons Vs Emojis

Nowadays, every one of us use emojis in the chat conversation. However, there are two words people use interchangeably – emoticons and emojis. For example, you can see “Emoticons” in the Skype personal app. When you click on the, you will see hundreds of animated emoji icons. This is a confusing way of using two different terms. Here we will explain the difference between emoticons and emojis.

Skype Hourglass with Flowing Sand Emoticon
Skype Hourglass with Flowing Sand Emoticon

Related: Alt code shortcuts for emoji symbols.


Emoticons is a word derived from emotion and icon. It indicates a facial or body expression or emotion presented in a text format. Emoticons are basically combination ASCII text character and you can think emoticon as a text emoji. For example, many of use still use the smiling face emoticon in a text format as :-). Japanese first started using emoticons in their cell phones and have different variations of text emojis like lenny faces and Kaomoji.

In general, most of the emoticons are text smileys in earlier days. However, later people started making many different expressions and human body parts as text emoticons.


Emoji is word derived from two Japanese words 絵 + 文字. The word 絵 indicates e = picture and 文字 indicates moji = written character. It means emojis are picture or pictorial characters represented in a colorful format. Unicode consortium standardize emoji symbols and assign a code point for character coding. This makes the emojis usable in all devices that uses Unicode character encoding (UTF-8). Currently, there are more than 1300 emoji symbols available under different categories like animals, faces, weather, etc.

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Emoticons Vs Emojis

The confusion came when the pure text emoticons are converted into emojis. For example, the smiling face emoticon :-) will look like a smiling picture symbol on most of the online and offline application that uses Unicode character encoding. In fact, most of the applications like Word, Facebook Messenger will automatically convert the text emoticon to a corresponding emoji symbol.

With the evolving of Unicode standardization, more and more applications start supporting the conversion of ASCII text characters to pictorial emoji symbols. Remember, emojis are also still characters and not pictographs. Some applications may use animated emojis and emoji images instead of Unicode symbol. Also, Facebook, Twitter and many other applications use their own character coding to show the same emoji symbol in different ways.

Summary of Differences

Below table contains the summary of differences between emoticons and emojis:    

Text based charactersPictorial characters
Generally facial and body expressionCovers different categories including face expressions
No standardizationUnicode standardization
Introduced in 1999Unicode standard was introduced in 2010
First used in Japanese phonesFirst used in Japanese phones
No code pointEach emoji has single or combination of unique code point
All applications show same emoticon as text. However, some emoticons may be converted into emoji.Display of emoji differs based on the character encoding used by the application.
No specific count1300+ emojis are available as of Unicode version 12.0.
Anyone can create an emoticon.Anyone can create, however general applications will support after adoption in Unicode release.
You can’t adapt emoticon character.You can adopt or sponsor Unicode emoji characters.
Though categorization available, it is informal.Formally categorized and classified into different Unicode emoji blocks.
No skin tonesSkin tones are available
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Popular Emoticons and Emoji Equivalents

Here is a list of popular emoticons and the equivalent emoji symbols.

:-)Slightly Smiling FaceSlightly Smiling Face
Grinning Face with Smiling EyesGrinning Face with Smiling Eyes
:-(Sad FaceSad Face
:-PFace with Struck Out TongueFace with Struck Out Tongue
:-DSmiling Face with Open MouthSmiling Face with Open Mouth
:-OFace with Open MouthFace with Open Mouth
;-)Winking FaceWinking Face
Smiling Face with SunglassSmiling Face with Sunglass
Angry FaceFrowning or Angry Face
Confused FaceConfused Face
:'(Crying FaceCrying Face
Smiling Devil Face with HornsSmiling Devil Face with Horns
Smiling Face with HaloSmiling Face with Halo
Kissing FaceKissing Face
<3Red HeartRed Heart
-_-Expressionless FaceExpressionless Face
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