What Do Emoji Mean? Plus, 6 Emoji to Get You Started

Emoji (Japanese for “picture character”) are starting to show up everywhere online. Find out what they mean and how to get started.

Ashley Dodge, assistant to

Emoji or emojis?

You might be wondering why we refer to emoji in the plural as emoji. Emoji, similar to haiku, is a loanword: a word we’ve brought into English from a foreign language. Although emoji is the correct plural in Japanese, in the same way haiku is the plural of haiku, Oxford Dictionaries says, “Some of these loanwords have developed plural (or singular) forms in English that are regarded as grammatically incorrect because they go against the grammar of the original language.”

In a previous podcast about dictionaries, Grammar Girl said most modern dictionaries are descriptive, meaning they attempt to describe the language as it is actually used. Although emojis may not be grammatically correct in Japanese, it is often used as the plural in English, and descriptive dictionaries will include it.

Grammar Girl often recommends looking up a word in a dictionary of your choice or a style guide (if you use one) and going with its spelling. The BuzzFeed style guide and the AP Stylebook (accessed August 17, 2014) use emojis. Dictionary.com and the Oxford Dictionaries list emoji and emojis. The Wikipedia page uses emoji. The Japanese word for emoji, 絵文字 or えもじ, translates into English as “pictogram,” and throughout the Wikipedia article,  絵文字 or えもじ is used as the plural emoji.


The 100 Most-Used Emojis, FiveThirtyEight

Emoji Cheat Sheet, Emoji-cheat-sheet.com

How to Use Emojis on Your Android Device, Android.appstorm.net

Most Used Emojis on Twitter, boston.com

Plurals of Nouns, OxfordDictionaries.com

Emoji, Dictionary.com

Emoji Wikipedia page

Emoji, OxfordDictionaries.com


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About the Author

Ashley Dodge, assistant to Grammar Girl

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