What is the difference between emoji, emoticon, pictograph?

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

What's the Difference Between Emoji and Emoticon?


Emoticon are characters made to resemble faces with smile or frown or other.

These are emoticons:

:)  smile

:(  frown

;)  wink face

:o  open mouth face

:]  robot face

(^_^)  cat face (Asian style emoticon)

Emoticon is popular in 1990s and 2000s.


Emoji is picture version of extended emoticon. It was popularized in Japane mobile phone in 2000s.

Here are examples of emoji:

Faces ๐Ÿ˜ƒ ๐Ÿ˜‹ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

Japanese mobile community created far more varied such images, now including cat face ๐Ÿ˜ธ, food ๐Ÿฃ, clothing ๐Ÿ‘™ ๐Ÿ‘— , places ๐Ÿฏ โ›ฉ ๐Ÿ—ป, Japanese comics iconographs ๐Ÿ’ข ๐Ÿ’ค ๐Ÿ’ฅ , etc.

and around 2015, food, places, clothing, expressions, of USA and other cultures are also created as emoji.

[see Unicode Emoji ๐Ÿ˜„]

What is the Difference Between Emoji and Pictographs?

Pictographs are symbols, such as U+26E8 โ›จ BLACK CROSS ON SHIELD, that are pictorial representations of objects, sometimes quite simplified.

The set of Unicode emoji intersects, but is not the same as the set of pictographs in the Unicode standard.

Some characters are both emoji and pictographs, such as U+1F32D ๐ŸŒญ HOT DOG.

Some characters are emoji but not pictographs, such as U+203C โ€ผ DOUBLE EXCLAMATION MARK.

Some characters are not emoji but are pictographs, such as U+26E8 โ›จ BLACK CROSS ON SHIELD.

2017-06-30 from http://unicode.org/faq/emoji_dingbats.html

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