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Emoji (絵文字えもじ, Japanese pronunciation: ) are the ideograms or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages, that are spreading outside Japan. Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji literally means "picture" (e) + "character" (moji). The characters are used much like ASCII emoticons or kaomoji, but a wider range is provided, and the icons are standardized and built into the handsets.

A large number of emoji exist in various genres, including facial expressions, common objects, places and types of weather, and animals. They are similar to but more comprehensive than previous dingbat fonts. The original designer of emoji, Shigetaka Kurita, took inspiration from weather forecasts that used symbols to show weather, and from manga that used stock symbols to express emotions, such as lightbulbs signifying inspiration.[1][2] Some emoji are very specific to Japanese culture, such as a bowing businessman, a face wearing a face mask, a white flower used to denote "brilliant homework",[3] or a group of emoji representing popular foods: ramen noodles, dango, onigiri, Japanese curry, and sushi.

Emoji were initially used by Japanese mobile operators, NTT DoCoMo, au, and SoftBank Mobile (formerly Vodafone). These companies each defined their own variants of emoji using proprietary standards. From 2010 onwards, some emoji character sets have been incorporated into Unicode, a standard system for indexing characters, which has allowed them to be used outside Japan and to be standardised across different operating systems.

Emoji have become increasingly popular since their international inclusion in Apple's iPhone, which was followed by similar adoption by Android and other mobile operating systems.[4][5][6] Apple's OS X operating system supports emoji as of version 10.7 (Lion).[7] Microsoft added monochrome Unicode emoji coverage to the Segoe UI Symbol system font in Windows 8 and added color emoji in Windows 8.1 via the Segoe UI Emoji font.

The exact appearance of emoji is not prescribed but varies between fonts, in the same way that normal typefaces can display letters differently. For example, the Apple Color Emoji typeface is proprietary to Apple, and can only be used on Apple devices. Different computing companies have developed their own fonts to display emoji, some of which have been open-sourced to permit their reuse.[8][9] Both colour and monochrome emoji typefaces exist, as well as at least one animated design.[10]


  • History 1
    • Early emoji encoding 1.1
    • In the Unicode standard 1.2
  • Blocks 2
    • SoftBank Unicode Private Use Area encoding 2.1
  • Implementation 3
    • Android 3.1
    • Chrome 3.2
    • Linux 3.3
    • Microsoft Windows 3.4
    • OS X and iOS 3.5
    • English-language WorldHeritage 3.6
    • General 3.7
  • Film adaptation 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The first emoji was created in 1998 or 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita, who was part of the team working on NTT DoCoMo's i-mode mobile Internet platform. The first set of 172 12×12 pixel emoji was created as part of i-mode's messaging features to help facilitate electronic communication, and to serve as a distinguishing feature from other services.[4] Kurita created the first 180 emoji based on the expressions that he observed people making and other things in the city[11]

However, in 1997 Nicolas Loufrani [12] recognized the growth in use of ASCII emoticons within mobile technology and he started experimenting with animated smiley faces,[13] with the intention of creating colourful icons that corresponded to the pre-existing ascii emoticons made of plain punctuation marks, to enhance them for a more interactive use in digital. From this Loufrani created the first graphical emoticons and compiled an online emoticon Dictionary [14] that was sorted into separate categories - Classics, Moods expressions, Flags, Celebrations, Fun, Sports, Weather, Animals, Food, Nations, Occupations, Planets, Zodiac, Babies and these designs were first registered in 1997 at The United States Copyright Office and then these icons were posted as .gif files on the Web in 1998, becoming the first ever graphical emoticons used in technology.[15] In 2000 the Emoticon Directory created by Loufrani was made available for users to download for cellular phones on the internet through which compiled over 1000 smiley graphic emoticons and their ASCII versions. This same directory was then published in 2002 in a book by Marabout called Dico Smileys.[16] In 2001 the Smiley Company started licensing the rights for Loufrani's graphic emoticons to be used for cellular phone emoticon downloads by a variety of different telecommunication companies including Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, SFR (vodaphone) and Sky Telemedia.

Early emoji encoding

For NTT DoCoMo's i-mode, each emoji is drawn on a 12×12 pixel grid. When transmitted, emoji symbols are specified as a two-byte sequence, in the private-use range E63E through E757 in the Unicode character space, or F89F through F9FC for Shift JIS. The basic specification has 176 symbols, with 76 more added in phones that support C-HTML 4.0.

Emoji pictograms by au are specified using the IMG tag. SoftBank Mobile emoji are wrapped between SI/SO escape sequences, and support colors and animation. DoCoMo's emoji are the most compact to transmit while au's version is more flexible and based on open standards.

In the Unicode standard

Hundreds of emoji characters were encoded in the Unicode Standard in version 6.0 released in October 2010 (and in the related international standard ISO/IEC 10646). The additions, originally requested by Google (Kat Momoi, Mark Davis, and Markus Scherer wrote the first draft for consideration by the Unicode Technical Committee in August 2007) and Apple Inc. (whose Yasuo Kida and Peter Edberg joined the first official UTC proposal for 607 characters as coauthors in January 2009), went through a long series of commenting by members of the Unicode Consortium and national standardization bodies of various countries participating in ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2, especially the United States, Germany, Ireland (led by Michael Everson), and Japan; various new characters (especially symbols for maps and European signs) were added during the consensus-building process. Encoding in the Unicode standard has allowed emoji to become popular outside Japan. The core emoji set in Unicode 6.0 consisted of 722 characters, of which 114 characters map to sequences of one or more characters in the pre-6.0 Unicode standard, and the remaining 608 characters map to sequences of one or more characters introduced in Unicode 6.0.[17] There is no block specifically set aside for emoji – the new symbols were encoded in seven different blocks (some newly created), and there exists a Unicode data file called EmojiSources.txt that includes mappings to and from the Japanese vendors' legacy character sets. "Regional indicator symbols" were defined as part of this set of characters as an alternative to encoding separate characters for national flags.

The popularity of emoji has caused pressure from vendors and international markets to add additional designs into the Unicode standard to meet the demands of different cultures. Unicode 7.0 added approximately 250 emoji, many from the Webdings and Wingdings fonts. Some characters now defined as emoji are inherited from a variety of pre-Unicode messenger systems not only used in Japan, including Yahoo and MSN Messenger.[18] Unicode 8.0 added another 41 emoji articles of sports equipment such as the cricket bat; food items such as the taco; signs of the Zodiac; new facial expressions; and symbols for places of worship.[19] A particular demand for emoji has been the ability to change a character's skin tone, and Unicode 8.0 added a system of combining characters, where a color character could be added to specify its skin color of the emoji before.[20]

Emoji characters vary slightly between platforms within the limits in meaning defined by the Unicode specification, as companies have tried to provide artistic presentations of ideas and objects.[21] For example, following an Apple tradition, the calendar emoji on Apple products always shows July 17, the date in 2002 Apple announced its iCal calendar application for Mac. This led some Apple product users to initially nickname July 17 'International Emoji Calendar Day',[22] which is now more commonly[23] referred to as 'World Emoji Day'.[24] Other emoji fonts show different dates or do not show a specific one.[25] Some Apple emoji are very similar to the SoftBank standard, since SoftBank was the first Japanese network the iPhone launched on. For example, 💃 (defined by Unicode as 'dancer - also used for “let’s party”') is female on Apple and SoftBank standards but male or at least gender-neutral on others.[26]

Journalists have noted that the ambiguity of emoji has allowed them to take on culture-specific meanings not present in the original glyphs. For example, 💅 (nail polish) has been described as being used in English-language communities to signify 'non-caring fabulousness' and 'anything from shutting haters down to a sense of accomplishment'.[27][28][29] Unicode manuals sometimes provide notes on auxiliary meanings of an object to guide designers on how emoji may be used, for example noting that some users may expect 💺 (seat) to stand for 'a reserved or ticketed seat, as for an airplane, train, or theater.'


Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Supplemental Symbols and Pictographs[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
Transport and Map Symbols[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Miscellaneous Symbols[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0

Additional emoji can be found in the following Unicode blocks: Arrows, CJK Symbols and Punctuation, Enclosed Alphanumeric Supplement, Enclosed CJK Letters and Months, Enclosed Ideographic Supplement, General Punctuation, Geometric Shapes, Latin-1 Supplement, Letterlike Symbols, Mahjong Tiles, Miscellaneous Symbols and Arrows, Miscellaneous Technical, Playing Cards, and Supplemental Arrows-B.

SoftBank Unicode Private Use Area encoding

This encoding was used in Apple's iOS before version 5.[30] It uses the following characters from the Unicode Private Use Area (this is unlikely to display correctly on systems that do not use SoftBank encoding, but a conversion table is available between Unicode, SoftBank and various other encodings[31]).




Android devices support emoji differently depending on the operating system version. Google added native emoji support to the Google Keyboard in November 2013 for devices running Android 4.4 and later.[32] Emoji is also supported by the Google Hangouts application (independent of the keyboard in use), in both hangout and SMS modes.[33] Several third-party messaging and keyboard applications (such as SwiftKey) for Android devices[34] also provide plugins that allow the use of emoji.


Chrome OS, through its inclusion of the Noto fonts, supports the emoji set introduced through Unicode 6.2. As of Chrome OS 41, Noto Color Emoji is the default font for most emoji.


Some Linux distributions support Emoji Characters after installing extra fonts. In Ubuntu or Debian based distributions this can be achieved by installing the package ttf-ancient-fonts, in Fedora or openSUSE—by installing the package gdouros-symbola-fonts.[35] This will install the Symbola font.

Microsoft Windows

Windows 8 and higher supports the full Unicode emoji characters through Microsoft's Segoe UI family of fonts. Emoji characters are accessed through the onscreen keyboard's "smiley" key. As of Windows 8.1 Preview, Segoe UI Emoji font supplies full-color pictographs. Differently from OS X & iOS, color glyphs are only supplied when the application supports Microsoft's DirectWrite API, and Segoe UI Emoji is explicitly declared, otherwise monochrome glyphs appear. An update for the Segoe UI Symbol font in Windows 7 and in Windows Server 2008 R2 brings a subset of the monochrome Unicode set to those operating systems.[36] The font update rebrands the font as Segoe UI Symbol. The difference between the two fonts is that Segoe UI lacks any and all Emoji characters, while Segoe UI Symbol and Segoe UI Emoji include them. Segoe UI Emoji and its full-color emoji set is not fully supported by all programs written for Windows; for example, among Web browsers, Internet Explorer can use the font, but the Windows port of Google Chrome cannot.

OS X and iOS

The mini character palette showing emoji emoticons

Apple first introduced emoji to their desktop operating system with the release of OS X 10.7 Lion. Users can view Emoji characters sent through email and messaging applications, which are commonly shared by mobile users, as well as any other application. Users can create Emoji symbols using the "Characters" special input panel from almost any OS X application by selecting the “Edit” menu and pulling down to “Special Characters”, or by the key combination Command+ Option+T. OS X uses the Apple Color Emoji font that was introduced in iOS. This provides users with full color pictographs.[37]

With the introduction of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, users can now access a dedicated emoji input palette in most text input boxes by using the key combination. Command+Ctrl+Space.[38]

English-language WorldHeritage

The English-language WorldHeritage offers emoji article titles as redirects where the object of the emoji can be linked to one specific WorldHeritage page. For example, the article titled 🍏 (green apple) redirects to the WorldHeritage article on apples.


Any operating system that supports adding additional fonts (this would include most operating systems except Chrome and Android) can add an emoji-supporting font. The public domain font Symbola contains all emoji (in monochrome) through version 8.0. Note however that not all operating systems have support for color fonts, so emoji might have to be rendered as black-and-white line art.

Film adaptation

Sony Pictures is developing an animated Emoji movie with Anthony Leondis directing and co-writing with Eric Siegel and Michelle Raimo Kouyate producing.[39]

See also


  1. ^ Kurita, Nakano, Lee. "Why and how I created emoji". Ignition. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Negishi, Mayumi. "Meet Shigetaka Kurita, the Father of Emoji".  
  3. ^ "White Flower Emoji".  
  4. ^ a b Blagdon, Jeff (4 March 2013). "How emoji conquered the world". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Adam Sternbergh (16 November 2014). "Smile, You’re Speaking EMOJI: The rapid evolution of a wordless tongue".  
  6. ^ Official Android KitKat information
  7. ^ emoji support by Apple
  8. ^ Davidson, Mike. "Open sourcing Twitter emoji for everyone". Twitter developer blog. Twitter. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Emoji One: Open Source Emoji". Emoji One. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  10. ^ El Khoury, Rita. "Woohoo! Animated Emoji Easter Eggs Overload The Latest Hangouts With Their Cuteness,Hehehehe". Android Police. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "Why and How I Created Emoji - IGNITION". IGNITION. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Piercy, Joseph (2013-10-25). Symbols: A Universal Language. Michael O'Mara Books.  
  15. ^
  16. ^ DICO SMILEYS (in French). Alleur (Belgique); [Paris]: MARABOUT. 2002-03-07.  
  17. ^ Unicode FAQ: Emoji and Dingbats – Q: How are emoji encoded in Unicode?
  18. ^ "Unicode 8.0.0". Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  19. ^ Cunningham, Andrew. "Apple’s working to introduce more diverse emoji—what’s the holdup?". Ars Technica. Conde Nast. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  20. ^ Allsopp, Ashleigh. "Lost in translation: Android emoji vs iOS emoji". Tech Advisor. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  21. ^ Dewey, Caitlin (2014-07-17). "Why is July 17 the date on the emoji calendar?". The Washington Post.  
  22. ^ Wright, Mic. "Happy World Emoji Day iOS users! But only bleak emptiness for Android fans".  
  23. ^ Varn, Kathryn (2015-07-17). "Letting Our Emojis Get in the Way". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-08-25. 
  24. ^ "Calendar emoji".  
  25. ^ Bosker, Bianca. "How Emoji Get Lost In Translation". Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  26. ^ Hern, Alex. "How to (pretend to) be young and down with the internet".  
  27. ^ Jewell, Hannah. "The 31 Most Nail Care Emoji Moments Of 2014". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  28. ^ Santos & Jones. "The Five Non-Negotiable Best Emojis in the Land". The Atlantic Wire. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  29. ^ "Supporting iOS 5 New Emoji Encoding". Manbolo Blog. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  30. ^ "php-emoji/table.htm at master · iamcal/php-emoji · GitHub". 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  31. ^ "Google adds SMS to Hangouts Android app, Emoji to KitKat keyboard". Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  32. ^ "Hangouts - Google Play". Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  33. ^ "emoji - Google Play". Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  34. ^ Petherbridge, Noah (April 4, 2013). "Make Emoji Work in Linux". Kistle blog. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  35. ^ "An update for the Segoe UI symbol font in Windows 7 and in Windows Server 2008 R2 is available". Microsoft Support. 
  36. ^ "Access and Use Emoji in Mac OS X". 2011-08-20. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  37. ^ Cipriani, Jason (2013-10-23). "How to access emoji in OS X 10.9 Mavericks". CNET. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  38. ^ Fleming, Jr, Mike (July 21, 2015). "Emoji At Center Of Bidding Battle Won By Sony Animation; Anthony Leondis To Direct". Deadline. 

External links

  • Unicode Technical Report #51: Unicode emoji
    • The Unicode FAQ - Emoji & Dingbats
    • Emoji Symbols — The original proposals for encoding of Emoji symbols as Unicode characters.
    • Background data for Unicode proposal

Unofficial documents:

  • Emoji Translate - Online translation tool from English to Emoji.
  • au by KDDI: Emoji, Type 1 2 (in Japanese)
  • A table displaying available emoji without requiring Unicode
  • Platform independent emoji dictionary
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