Emoji vs. Emoticon – What’s the Difference?

In the 21st century, we have many new ways to communicate emotions in digital messages, including emoji and emoticons. Since you yourself are reading this article on the Internet from a digital device, the chances are high that you have read or even used either an emoji or an emoticon today.

Many people confuse emoji and emoticons, but they are actually quite different. Continue reading to find out why.

What is the Difference Between Emoji and Emoticons?

In this post, I will compare emoji vs. emoticon. I will use each of these terms in a sentence, so you can see it in context. Plus, I will show you a useful mnemonic that you can use when you aren’t sure how to describe the strange faces that people send you in text messages.

So, what are you using in your texts? An emoticon or emjoi?

What is an Emoticon?

emoji versus emoticon meaningWhat is an emoticon? First, let’s start with the older of the two. Emoticon is a noun. An emoticon is a set of characters that mimic a facial expression. The word emoticon itself is a portmanteau of the words emotion and icon.

Emoticons in their current form were created in the 1980s, and, with the advent of affordable personal computing, gained widespread popularity in the 1990s.

The following are example sentences,

  • When I email my colleagues to ask them why they haven’t done something, I include smiley emoticons so they know I’m not mad at them yet.
  • Emoticons allow a writer to take advantage of facial emotion recognition to add deeper layers of social meaning to text.

Here are a few examples or emoticons,

  • :]
  • :-]
  • O.o
  • :’[

What is an Emoji?

Definition of emoticon definition and definition of emoji definitionWhat is an emoji? The word emoji is the singular and plural version of a different noun. An emoji is a small picture that can be inserted into text.

Emoji were created by a Japanese company in the 1990s. The word emoji is a contraction of the Japanese words e and moji, which can be roughly translated to mean pictograph.

Here are some examples,

  • I tried to put a sushi emoji in my text message, but it did not look very much like sushi.
  • While many adults grew up using emoticons, youths are much more likely to prefer emoji for their own messages.

Here are a few emoji,

  • 🙂
  • 🙁

If you have a smartphone, you are familiar with the many different emoji that are on them.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define emoticon and define emojiNow, let’s cover a helpful trick to remember emoticons vs. emoji.

Many people don’t know that emoji and emoticons are not the same thing. They can be sometimes used to achieve similar goals, depending on the device you are using, but they are nonetheless different concepts.

  • An emoji is a tiny picture of something.
  • An emoticon is a sequence of characters that represents a facial expression.

Thus, an emoji can be basically anything, from facial expressions to food items to sporting goods to national flags. An emoticon, meanwhile, is only a facial expression that conveys an emotion.

Since emoticon is formed by combining the words emotion and icon, you can use the word’s etymology to remind yourself that this type of representation only refers to text-based imitations of facial emotions.

Summary

Is it emoji or emoticon? The two words are not interchangeable, but they both relate to the computing and texting world.

  • An emoji is a small image of something.
  • An emoticon is a character sequence that conveys facial expressions.

Since emoticon is a portmanteau of emotion and icon, you should have little trouble remembering when to use this term if you can remember how the word is formed.

The ever-evolving world of digital communication can be headache-inducing, but as long as you have resources like this site, you can always be up-to-date on the current trends. Now, you don’t have to worry when selecting emoticon or emoji in your text.

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