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Smileys (or Smilies)

Smileys are a strange and fun Internet phenomenon, more correctly known as emoticons, which have the purpose of conveying emotion. They are used particularly in online chat rooms and in e-mails.

There are no strict rules for composing smileys, and so numerous varieties have been invented and are in use. The principle is to create a face (viewed by tipping the head to the side) using standard keyboard characters and punctuation.

A typical smiley would be constructed from a colon or equals sign for eyes, a hyphen or "O" as a nose, and a bracket forming the mouth. Examples of different happy smileys are shown below:

:-)     : )     :o)     =O)

Not all smileys are smiley, though; here are some sad ones:

:-(     :(     :0(     =o(

Here is a selection of other smileys with their meanings:

:o)happy:o#lips are sealed
:o(sad>:o|frowning
;o)winking:o|hmm
|oOyawning:o9licking lips
: *kissXo)cross eyed
:oPsticking tongue out(:o)bald
:~(crying:o)>has a beard
:oDlaughing:o)'drooling
(o:left handed8o)wearing glasses
C|:o)wearing a bowler hat[:o)wearing headphones

Have we left something out? If you know other smileys commonly used on the Internet, and which you think ought to be included in this dictionary, please send them to us.

More on Internet Language

See also our Dictionary of Internet Abbreviations for more on the abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms used in chat rooms and e-mails.

You will also find fun books of smilies, as well as comprehensive guides to internet terminology, in the Internet Language section of our words and language book store.

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