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Wait, what’s THAT? 25 most popular emojis, explained

Nowadays, internet trends are like a neverending carousel ride. Right when the horses stop, the music cuts out and you’re ready to step down from the stage, the music erupts again and you’re clinging to your horse for purchase. Take emojis, for example; some are super easy to understand, like the simple smiling emoticon.

Others can be confusing, like the folded hands emoji, in which two palms are pressed closely together. Many people use it to symbolize prayer, while others use it to mean please or thank you. If you don’t know the various meanings behind each emoji, you may misunderstand a text someone sends you: Is someone asking for you to pray on their behalf, or are they thanking you for something?

It gets even dicier when we look into emojis with x-rated meanings. Tap or click here to make sure your emoji choice isn’t accidentally leading people on. That’s why we put together this easy list of the 25 most popular emojis — along with all of their meanings to help you avoid future misunderstandings.

Emoji meanings you need to know

We tried to find some of the most commonly used emojis with multiple meanings. Some of them vary across cultures, while others have surprisingly complex double meanings. If you’ve ever received a few emojis you don’t understand, this chart might help you understand what was going on.

RELATED: Clever Mac keyboard shortcuts you’ll use time and time again

Check them out:

EmojiMeaningsWhy someone might send it
🗿The moai, stone statues of Easter Island



Someone might send this as a show of strength or support

They may also send it to encourage someone else to stay determined in hard times

(It’s more popular in Japan than in the U.S., though)



Ever texted something so ridiculous the receiver has no idea what to say? You might have gotten this emoji in response

Although it can mean someone is speechless, it can also signify displeasure

People also use this to signify embarrassment, like “The waiter said ‘Enjoy your meal’ and I said it back to him 😶”


Something cool

Something attractive (literally, hot)
People might send this when talking about cool new clothes or trends. (Like “This is a white-hot trend”) 

It’s also pretty sexual

If you send a selfie and someone responds with this emoji, they’re saying you’re attractive
😪Being tired

Falling asleep
This emoji is often confused with 😢

😪 means you’re about to fall asleep. The blue droplet represents a snot bubble people sometimes have when they’re sleeping
On the other hand, 😢 means someone is unhappy




Pleasant surprise

Being impressed
If you’re flirting with someone over text, it’s a sign you’re in, so to speak

The sender is letting you know they like what they see

But friends also use it with one another, so it can be platonic

Say one friend shows another a painting they just finished. The admirer might send this back along with some praise

It’s a sign of goodwill — not necessarily romantic interest
🧠 Thinking 

The human brain


Oral sex (yes, really)
Normally, people send this emoji when they’re discussing philosophy or neuroscience

This emoji could indicate the way different people’s brains work. Maybe you’re discussing some strange behavior you witnessed recently

Then again, if a former flame who hasn’t texted you in 8 months suddenly reaches out with “🧠❓” that’s probably an inappropriate request


Although this can be silly and playful, it can also signify frustration or passive aggression.

For example, someone might say, “My dog just woke me up at 4 a.m. for his potty after refusing to go earlier 🙃”

People often use it to signify resignation. The owner doesn’t want to be up at 4 a.m., but they need to let their dog go out.

Basically, the 🙃 emoji is a playful way of expressing displeasure
❄️️Literal snowflakes


Sensitive people
If you’re talking about cold weather, this emoji just refers to the snowflakes in the sky

This can also refer to cocaine, so if someone is telling you about a party and they use this, it’s safe to assume someone brought drugs

People will often insult one another as “snowflakes,” which is a slang term for sensitive people. So if you’re arguing and someone uses this, they’re trying to rile you up

Impressive, cool people
Not only can this emoji refer to the literal animal, but it can also be used as a compliment

A popular acronym is G.O.A.T., which stands for “Greatest of All Time.”

People often just use this emoji to represent that complimentary acronym 🐐

Here’s a funny misunderstanding:

• CNN political writer Brandon Tensley hailed Simone Biles’ gymnastic skills by calling her the GOAT.

A Twitter user took insult on Biles’ behalf, thinking it was a dig at her looks

Bottom line: If someone calls you a GOAT or uses this emoji, don’t immediately take it as an insult!
🤏A little bit

Poorly endowed male genitalia
This can refer to both small amounts of something … including genitalia.

So if you ask a friend how her date was and she responds with this, it’s safe to assume he “came up short,” so to speak.

Rude woman

Ugly person
If someone uses this while talking about a pet, it’s safe to assume they’re being innocent

But if they use it while discussing a person they dislike, it’s safe to assume their intentions aren’t too nice

If someone texts you complaining about a woman they know and they use this, they’re probably calling her a bitch

Or they could be insulting her looks by saying she looks like a dog

Maybe someone just accomplished something they didn’t know they were capable of

They might send this as a way of expressing their happiness at the turn of events

If someone is reserved and doesn’t want to compliment themselves overtly, this emoji is a popular choice

When someone sends this to you, it can also mean they’re grateful for something you did


Sure, 💨 can refer to cold weather and strong winds …

… but it’s also a favorite among smokers, from marijuana lovers to people who vape

It can also mean someone’s in a hurry

This is one of the most iconic flirty emojis out there

It usually means someone’s being cheeky, but it can also convey smugness and self-confidence

If someone comments on your Instagram with “Looking good 😏” they’re probably hoping you’re single

Of course, context matters. If a friend texts you with, “I just passed my driver’s exam 😏” that’s not an innuendo. They’re probably just proud of themselves!



Maybe you told a friend you had a tough day and they say, “What happened? 👀”

It mostly means someone wants to know more

It can also mean someone is aroused or attracted, since your eyes widen and your pupils dilate when you see something you like

On the other hand, it can also refer to shifty eyes or disliking something. It all depends on context! someone wants more details over text and


Female genitalia

Deep Web sites run by the FBI
This can refer to literal honey or metaphorical sweetness

Say you do something nice or say something kind. If someone sends this, they’re complimenting your behavior and saying you’re as sweet as honey

Just watch out, though. It could also refer to a woman’s private parts due to the slang term “honey pot”

It’s also a term cybercriminals use to describe Deep Web sites that double as sting operations by the FBI

Jazz hands

Warm feelings
People often use this for jazz hands or even feeling pretty

For the most part, though, it means someone wants to give you a hug


This is a popular flirting emoji

It’s a common response to surprising stories, so it can mean someone’s embarrassed by something you said

Since the monkey is covering its eyes, this emoji often refers to disbelief



Social anxiety
People use this emoji to signify social awkwardness

If someone’s telling you about their date and they use this, it means the date went badly

If you’re telling a story and someone responds with 😬 it means they find some part of your message uncomfortable or cringeworthy


Warm feelings



This emoji is especially versatile. It can indicate the stereotypical cheerfulness of a clown

It’s also a way to teasingly poke fun at others. Maybe your friend does something goofy (or you do something clumsy) so you use this to light-heartedly make fun of yourself

Be careful, though. People often use this emoji to mock others

For example, let’s say someone on TikTok films themselves picking up a drink by the lid. It spills all over them. Commenters may spam this emoji to make fun of the poster

While this can be an innocent reference to bowling, it can also refer to “striking someone,” as in a fight


If you share a scary story, someone might respond with this

It can also refer to the horror genre as a whole

Remember those old Looney Tunes cartoons? Two characters would run into each other and bump their heads. Stars would whirl around their heads. This emoji can both refer to stars and a feeling of dizziness.







People often send this when you’ve given them a compliment they didn’t expect

They might also use it to indicate feeling uncomfortable

This emoji is a cute way of indicating you’re embarrassed and unsure

It can also mean someone is so surprised that they didn’t know what to do, hence the wide eyes and flat mouth

Although this can refer to standing around, it can also convey discomfort

Maybe a friend texts you “I’m waiting. Where are you? 🧍‍♀️ ” That can mean she’s nearby and feeling awkward standing around

Given the speedy nature of the internet, we imagine some of these will morph over time. Maybe they’ll gain even more double (or triple) meanings later on!

Curious about an emoji that wasn’t on the list? Try this

One great resource you can use is Emojipedia, which lets you copy and paste every emoji. It’s a blessing when you’re on your desktop and want to use emojis but you’ve forgotten the shortcuts on your keyboard.

RELATED: The Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts you need to know

As a reminder, when you’re typing in Windows 10 and you want to add an emoji, hit the Windows logo key, + and . (That’s the Windows logo, the plus sign and the period sign.) You’ll open up a little box like this:

Just click and you’re good to go. If you’re on a Mac, open the Emoji Viewer by hitting Ctrl + Command + Spacebar at the same time.

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