Copyright

What are Emoticons? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Mary Firestone
Find out what emoticons are, and how to create them. Learn what the different emoticon symbols mean. Read the lesson, then take a quiz to test your new knowledge.

Emoticons

You've most likely seen emoticons (also known as 'smileys'), but might not have known they had an official name. An 'emoticon' is a small group of symbols arranged to show happiness, sadness and other emotions. The word 'emoticon' is a portmanteau, a term combining two words to create a new one: 'emotion + icon'. In the impersonal world of electronic communication, emoticons give us another way to share our feelings and clarify our meaning.

There's some dispute about who invented emoticons, but one of the first people to use them was Scott Fahlman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. On a discussion board in 1982, he proposed a series of facial expressions using colons, semicolons and parenthesis and these are in common use today.

How to Create Them

Emoticons can be created using the symbols and letters on your keyboard. Generally, emoticons look like human faces, placed sideways. However, many smartphones, email programs and online forums have massive emoticon libraries with colorful cartoon smileys and other shapes, many that move like two-second films.

Emoticons in Action

Emoticons are usually placed at the end of a sentence for emphasis, like these text messages:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member

Already a member? Log In

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 100 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,900 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

1
You just finished your first lesson. Study.com has thousands of lessons to help you meet your educational goals.
5
You're making great progress. Keep it up!
10
Congrats on viewing 10 lessons! You're doing great.
Keep clicking that 'next lesson' button whenever you finish a lesson and its quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate and you'll be done before you know it.
Two days in a row, nice! Keep your streak going to get the most of your learning and reach your goal faster.