There are many cultural differences around which emoticons people use. While the sideways :) style emoticons are more common in western cultures, the “right-side-up” style emoticons are more popular in eastern countries. Perhaps owing to their greater expressiveness, or the influence of manga on western culture and internet culture in particular, eastern-style emoticons have gained in popularity in the west, especially among nerds.

I started using them because they seemed to capture much more emotion, and lend themselves to a wider range of expressiveness. But for those unfamiliar with their meaning, they can be confusing.

The trick is to look at them as right-side-up faces, eyes on the sides, mouth in the middle. The size and position of the eyes usually indicates the emotion. It might help to put them in parentheses like (^_^) so it looks more like a face. These are the ones I use. There are a bunch more, especially in Kanji and other languages where there are many more shapes to play with.


Crying a lot. The Ts are eyes squinted shut, with a stream of tears. The “o” is a wide open mouth, because you’re crying so hard. Think WAAAAAAA!!!! like a cartoon baby.


Lotta tears, but not wailing. Maybe you’re just chopping onions or something.


Crying a little. The ;s are an eye with one tear coming down, and the mouth is shut. Sniff sniff.


Quiet frustrated resignation. Eyes are pointed down. “Alright. Fine. Whatever.”


Profound dismay. Opposite of smiling. Eyebrows are lifted in the middle, very sad. With the open mouth, it’s a wail of extreme sorrow.


Whoa!! Exclamation, surprise. Eyes are wide open.


Sleeping. Eyes are shut.


Sleepy. Note the bags under the eyes.


Furious or hurt. Like you just stubbed your toe. Fuck! Face is scrunched up.


Yelling about it!


Yawn (eyes are closed, mouth open)


Dizzy, confused, disoriented. whoooaaa…


Thinking about money (Like the cartoons where the person’s eyes would go “chaching!”)


Dead (x’s over the eyes, skeleton face.)


Raised eyebrow, quizzical, interested. “Hm..?”


Scratching head. Like o_O but a bit more confused or intrigued.


Happy, grinning


WOW! YAY! Eyes are smiling, mouth wide open exclaiming about something. Sometimes with arms, like \(^o^)/




Embarrassed, smiling. From the manga tradition of putting a giant sweat drop by the face of a character to indicate discomfort. More ; means more embarrassed.


Listening to music, headphones on


A happy kiss.