Tech

Here's What All The Face Emojis Actually Mean

Why are there so many of them anyway?

Here's breakdown of what each face emoji means and when it should be used.
Shutterstock
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Welcome to this article about emoji usage, brought you by someone who almost exclusively uses the purple smiling devil face emoji because I feel it best represents my essence. And also all the witchy emoji, because duh. But see, friends, that is the beauty of this whole thing. We're in this together, to discover once and for all: What do all the face emoji mean? There are over 50 face emoji, according to Emojipedia, so maybe we should all double check that we know what each one is and when it should be used.

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 are hand emoji, cat emoji, heart emoji, and more — but it's the faces that are somehow both the most straightforward and hardest to use, in my opinion. I could text peace signs and exploding hearts and angry cats all the livelong day, but Smooching Face? How? Why? Which version of Smiling Face do I even use, and why are there so many of them? These are the important questions, friends. And we shall answer them — or at least, we'll answer them for 15 of the little pictograms right now. It's worth it to start small, so here's what 15 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."

This one's a classic, guys. I started out easy. I know I said we were in this whole "figuring out faces" thing together, but if you still need help with the basic smiley face, then... I don't know, man. I just don't know.

2. Smiling Face With Open Mouth & Cold Sweat Emoji

Also known as: Happy Sweat Emoji, Exercise Face, "The One With The Gross-Sounding Description" (or maybe that's just me).

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."

Fun fact: This emoji is essentially the cousin of "Smiling Face With Open Mouth," because, as Emojipedia notes, they share the exact same open mouth. Another fun fact? Emojipedia says that some people use this particular emoji to denote exercise — I'm guessing few people are using it for that, though, unless your treadmill jams are especially bopping.

3. Angry Face Emoji

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."

Since anger itself takes many forms, it's appropriate that this emoji seems to vary pretty widely across platforms — according to Emojipedia, its mouth and eyebrows change shape across platforms, and it's even red on platforms like Google and Mozilla. Worth noting in case you're texting from a less red version like Apple, lest your friend get it and think you're at that level of rage.

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."

I love that this very non-neutral face is called "neutral." It perfectly fits with the seriously passive-aggressive vibes it throws out. Per Emojipedia, it's also a close cousin of "Expressionless Face," which features the same straight line mouth shape on both of the eyes.

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."

This was initially branded as "Face Throwing A Kiss" when it was added to Unicode's emoji lineup in 2015, according to Emojipedia, which certainly raises a lot of questions about how one would commit to "throwing" a kiss — particularly since our little emoji friends have no limbs. Either way, it manages to get the job done, one wink at a time.

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."

Mostly I just use it for sex-related jokes, to be honest — but Emojipedia notes that it's not to be confused with its close cousin, "the more mischievous or sexual Smirking Face." That's right, everyone — the future is here and it wants to give you as many nuanced ways to hit on your contacts as possible.

7. Face With Stuck Out Tongue Emoji

Also known as: Cheeky Emoji, Licky Face, "LOL JK I Love You" 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!"

This emoji is yet another one with some very close cousin emoji, including n Winking Face With Tongue and Squinting Face With Tongue. Basically, it's important to know that if you want to stick your tongue out at someone virtually, you have multiple options at your disposal; "Face With Stuck Out Tongue" is just a classic among many.

8. Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped 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."

Note that this face can be used either directly to mean "I Love You," or as the emoji equivalent to puppy-dog-eyes. And also note that it comes in cat form, too, if you're feeling like mixing things up with a "Smiling Cat Face With Heart-Eyes." To each their own.

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.

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.

I like to use this emoji whenever my mom sends me a meme she thinks is hilarious, but I don't really understand (and I don't want to hurt her feelings).

11. Upside Down Smiley Face Emoji

Siena Gagliano/Bustle

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.”

I like to use the upside down face emoji emoji when I am feeling a little salty and my friend deserves a sarcastic response. I also like to use it when I feel totally ~awkward~ and don’t know what to say.

12. Pleading Face Emoji

Siena Gagliano/Bustle

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.”

I like to use this emoji when someone does something super nice for me. I also like to use it to beg my boo to do something for me, because, you know.

13. Face With Spiral Eyes Emoji

Siena Gagliano/Bustle

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.”

When I wake up in the morning after a night out, and I really don’t want to think about my questionable actions, I’ll send this emoji to excuse any of my cringey behavior.

14. Face In The Clouds Emoji

Siena Gagliano/Bustle

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.”

Sometimes I am so out of it, and totally not catching on, I need an emoji to describe my mood. This one does the trick.

15. Star-Struck Face Emoji

Siena Gagliano/Bustle

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.”

If I need an emoji to describe how happy I am, or how excited I am, the star-struck face is just the one I need.

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.

This article was originally published on