[Unicode]  Technical Reports

Proposed Draft Unicode Technical Report #51

Unicode Emoji

Version 1.0 (draft 2)
Editors Mark Davis (Google Inc.), Peter Edberg (Apple Inc.)
Date 2014-11-15
This Version http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr51/tr51-1.html
Previous Version n/a
Latest Version http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr51
Latest Proposed Update n/a
Revision 1


The main goal of document is to help improve the interoperability of emoji characters across implementations by providing guidelines and data.

The guidelines include design recommendations with guidance for improving interoperability across platforms and implementations and longer-term approaches to emoji. Background information about emoji is also supplied.

The data includes information about Unicode emoji characters, including: which characters normally can be considered to be emoji; which of those should be displayed by default with a text-style versus an emoji-style; how to sort and group emoji characters more naturally; useful categories for character-pickers for mobile and virtual keyboards; and useful annotations for searching emoji.


This is a proposed draft document which may be updated, replaced, or superseded by other documents at any time. Publication does not imply endorsement by the Unicode Consortium. This is not a stable document; it is inappropriate to cite this document as other than a work in progress.

Please submit corrigenda and other comments with the online reporting form [Feedback]. Related information that is useful in understanding this document is found in the References. For the latest version of the Unicode Standard see [Unicode]. For a list of current Unicode Technical Reports see [Reports]. For more information about versions of the Unicode Standard, see [Versions].


1 Introduction


Emoji are pictographs (pictorial symbols) that are typically presented in a colorful cartoon form and used inline in text. They represent things such as faces, weather, vehicles and buildings, food and drink, animals and plants, or icons that represent emotions, feelings, or activities. Emoji on smartphones and in chat and email applications have become popular worldwide.

The word emoji comes from the Japanese:

(e ≅ picture) (mo ≅ writing) (ji ≅ character).

Within text, emoji may be represented internally by images or as encoded characters. When necessary for disambiguation, the latter may be called emoji characters. Some characters are normally displayed as emoji; some are normally displayed as ordinary text, and some can be displayed both ways. See also the OED: emoji, n.

Emoji became available in 1999 on Japanese mobile phones. There was an early proposal in 2000 to encode DoCoMo emoji in Unicode. At that time, it was unclear whether these characters would come into widespread use—and there wasn't support from the Japanese carriers to add them to Unicode—so no action was taken.

The emoji turned out to be quite popular in Japan, but each mobile phone carrier developed different (but partially overlapping) sets, and each mobile phone vendor used their own—incompatible—text encoding extensions. The vendors developed cross-mapping tables to allow limited interchange of emoji characters with phones from other vendors, including email. Characters from other platforms that could not be displayed were represented with 〓 (U+3013 GETA MARK), but it was all too easy for the characters to get corrupted or dropped.

When non-Japanese email and mobile phone vendors started to support email exchange with the Japanese carriers, they ran into those problems. Moreover, there was no way to represent these characters in Unicode, which was the basis for text in all modern programs. In 2006, Google started work on converting Japanese emoji to Unicode private-use codes, leading to the development of internal mapping tables for supporting the carrier emoji via Unicode characters in 2007.

There are, however, many problems with a private-use approach, and thus a proposal was made to the Unicode Consortium for expanding the scope of symbols to encompass emoji. This proposal was approved in May of 2007, leading to the formation of a symbols subcommittee, and in August of 2007 the technical committee agreed to support the encoding of emoji in Unicode based on a set of principles developed by the subcommittee. The following are a few of the documents tracking the progression of Unicode emoji characters.

Emoji Proposals
Date Doc No. Title Authors
2000-04-26 L2/00-152 NTT DoCoMo Pictographs Graham Asher (Symbian)
2006-11-01 L2/06-369 Symbols (scope extension) Mark Davis (Google)
2007-08-03 L2/07-257 Working Draft Proposal for Encoding Emoji Symbols Kat Momoi, Mark Davis, Markus Scherer (Google)
2007-08-09 L2/07-274R Symbols draft resolution Mark Davis (Google)
2007-09-18 L2/07-391 Japanese TV Symbols (ARIB) Michel Suignard (Microsoft)
2009-01-30 L2/09-026 Emoji Symbols Proposed for New Encoding Markus Scherer, Mark Davis, Kat Momoi, Darick Tong (Google);
Yasuo Kida, Peter Edberg (Apple)
2009-03-05 L2/09-025R2 Proposal for Encoding Emoji Symbols
2010-04-27 L2/10-132 Emoji Symbols: Background Data
2011-02-15 L2/11-052R Wingdings and Webdings Symbols Michel Suignard

The first Unicode characters explicitly intended as emoji were actually added for interoperability with the ARIB set in 2009, with Unicode 5.2. For the Japanese mobile phone carriers, a set of 722 characters was defined as the union of their emoji characters; of these, 114 were mapped to characters already in Unicode 5.2, and the remaining 608 characters were added in 2010, with Unicode 6.0. Several other emoji characters were added to Unicode at the same time. A few more pictographs were added in 2012 with Unicode 6.1, and a large number were added in 2014, with Unicode 7.0.

Here is a summary of when some of the major sources of pictographs used as emoji were encoded in Unicode. (These sources include more than just emoji, however.)

Major Sources
Sample Character
Zapf Dingbats
umbrella with rain drops
Japanese carriers
smiling face with sunglasses
Wingdings & Webdings
hot pepper

For a detailed view of when various source sets of emoji were added to Unicode, see emoji-versions-sources (the format is explained in Data Files). The correspondence to the original Japanese carrier symbols is in the UCD data file EmojiSources.txt. Data for the other sources is not in the UCD.

The following provides a list of when Unicode emoji characters were incorporated into selected products. (The PUA characters were a temporary solution.)

Selected Products
Date Product Version Encoding Display Input Notes, Links
2008-01 GMail mobile
PUA color palette モバイル Gmail が携帯絵文字に対応しました
2008-10 GMail web
PUA color palette Gmail で絵文字が使えるようになりました
2008-11 iPhone iPhone OS 2.2 PUA color palette Softbank users, others via 3rd party apps. CNET Japan article on Nov. 21, 2008.
2011-07 Mac OSX 10.7 Unicode 6.0 color Character Viewer
2011-11 iPhone, iPad iOS 5 Unicode 6.0 color +emoji keyboard
2012-06 Android Jelly Bean
color? 3rd party input
2012-09 iPhone, iPad iOS 6 + variation selectors

2012-08 Windows 8 Unicode only; no emoji variation sequences desktop/tablet: b&w;
phone: color
integrated in touch keyboards
2013-08 Windows 8.1 Unicode only; emoji variation sequences all: color touch keyboards; phone: text prediction features (e.g. “love” -> ❤) Color using scalable glyphs (OpenType extension)
2013-11 Android Kitkat

native keyboard

Review Note: The above table may be fleshed out further.

A question often asked is how many emoji are in Unicode.This question does not have a simple answer, because there is no clear line separating which pictographic characters should and which should not be displayed with a typical emoji style. But roughly speaking, aside from the core set in Unicode Version 7.0 there are about 550 other characters that could also reasonably be displayed with typical emoji style (colored), such as U+1F46D TWO WOMEN HOLDING HANDS. There are also ways of representing emoji for national flags, adding about 240 others.

However, one of the goals of this document is to provide data for which Unicode characters would normally be considered to be emoji. This data is currently just in draft form, but according to that data, about 1,500 emoji are represented in Unicode 7.0. For more information, see Which Characters are Emoji.

1.1 Emoticons and Emoji

The term emoticon refers to a series of text characters (typically punctuation or symbols) that is meant to represent a facial expression or gesture (sometimes when viewed sideways), such as the following.


Emoticons predate Unicode and emoji, but were later adapted to include Unicode characters. The following examples use not only ASCII characters, but also U+203F ( ‿ ), U+FE35 ( ︵ ), U+25C9 ( ◉ ), and U+0CA0 ( ಠ ).




Often implementations allow emoticons to be used to input emoji. For example, the emoticon ;-) can be mapped to 😉 in a chat window. The term emoticon is sometimes also used in a broader sense, to also include the emoji for facial expressions and gestures. That broad sense is used in the Unicode Block Name Emoticons, covering the code points from U+1F600 to U+1F64F.

1.2 Encoding Considerations

Unicode is the foundation for text in all modern software: it’s how all mobile phones, desktops, and other computers represent all text of every language. People are using Unicode every time they type a key on their phone or desktop computer, and every time they look at a web page or text in an application. It is thus very important that the standard be stable, and that every character that goes into it be scrutinized carefully; thus there is a long development cycle for characters, with a formal process. For example, the 🕶 dark sunglasses character was first proposed years before it was released in Unicode 7.0.

To be considered for encoding, characters must normally be in widespread use as textual elements. The emoji and various symbols were added to Unicode because of their use as characters for text-messaging in a number of Japanese manufacturers’ corporate standards, and other places, or in long-standing use in widely distributed fonts such as Wingdings and Webdings. In many cases, the characters were added for complete round-tripping to and from a source set, not because they were inherently of more importance than other characters. For example, the 🖁 clamshell phone character was included because it was in Wingdings and Webdings, not because it is more important than, say, a “skunk” character.

In some cases, a character was added to complete a set: for example, a 🏉 rugby football character was added to Unicode 6.0 to complement the 🏈 american football character (the ⚽ soccer ball had been added back in Unicode 5.2). Similarly, a mechanism was added that could be used to represent represent all country flags (those corresponding to a two-letter unicode_region_subtag), such as the 🇨🇦 flag for Canada, even though the Japanese carrier set only had 10 country flags.

People wanting to submit emoji or any other character for consideration for encoding should see the detailed instructions about how to submit character encoding proposals. It may be helpful to review the Unicode Forum or the Unicode Mail List, as well.

The historical documents used in the development of Unicode emoji from the Japanese carriers may be useful for comparison, since they show the original Japanese images and the first proposed reference glyphs. See the start of this section.

For more information about emoji, see the Unicode Emoji FAQ.

1.3 Goals

This document provides:

It also provides background information about emoji, and discusses longer-term approaches to emoji.

As new Unicode characters are added or the “common practice” for emoji usage changes, the data and recommendations supplied by this document may change in accordance. Thus the recommendations and data will change across versions of this document.

Additions beyond Unicode 7.0 are being addressed by the Unicode Technical Committee: as any new characters are approved, this document will be updated as appropriate.

Review Note: The data presented here is draft, and may change considerably before publication. Some the data presented here, such as collation or annotations, might end up in the Unicode CLDR project instead.

2 Design Guidelines

Unicode characters can have different presentations. Emoji characters can have two kinds of presentation:

More precisely, a text presentation is a simple foreground shape whose color which is determined by other information, such as setting a color on the text, while an emoji presentation determines the color(s) of the character, and is typically multicolored. In other words, when you change the text color in a word processor, a character with an emoji presentation will not change color.

Any Unicode character can be presented with text presentation, as in the Unicode charts. Both the name and the representative glyph in the Unicode chart should be taken into account when designing the apparance of the emoji, along with the images used by other vendors. The shape of the character can vary significantly. For example, here are just some of the possible images for U+1F36D LOLLIPOP, U+1F36E CUSTARD, U+1F36F HONEY POT, and U+1F370 SHORTCAKE:

While the shape of the character can vary significantly, designers should maintain the same “core” shape, based on the shapes used mostly commonly in industry practice. For example, a U+1F36F HONEY POT encodes for a pictorial representation of a pot of honey, not for some semantic like "sweet". It would be unexpected to represent U+1F36F HONEY POT as a sugar cube, for example. Deviating too far from that core shape can cause interoperability problems: see accidentally-sending-friends-a-hairy-heart-emoji. Direction (whether a person or object faces to the right or left, up or down) should also be maintained where possible, because a change in direction can change the meaning: when sending 🐊 🔫👮 “crocodile shot by police”, people expect any recipient to see the pistol pointing in the same direction as when they composed it. Similarly, the U+1F6B6 pedestrian should face to the left 🚶, not to the right.

General-purpose emoji for people and body parts should also not be given overly specific images: the general recommendation is to be as neutral as possible regarding race, ethnicity, and gender. Thus for the character U+1F64B happy person raising one hand, the recommendation is to use a neutral graphic like 🙋 instead of an overly-specific image like 🙋. This includes the characters listed in the annotations chart under “human”. The representative glyph used in the charts, or images from other vendors may be misleading: for example, the construction worker 👷 may be male or female. For more information, see the Unicode Emoji FAQ.

Names of symbols such as BLACK MEDIUM SQUARE or WHITE MEDIUM SQUARE are not meant to indicate that the corresponding character must be presented in black or white, respectively; rather, the use of “black” and “white” in the names is generally just to contrast filled versus outline shapes, or a darker color fill versus a lighter color fill. Similarly, in other symbols such as the hands U+261A BLACK LEFT POINTING INDEX and U+261C WHITE LEFT POINTING INDEX, the words “white” and “black” also refer to outlined versus filled, and do not indicate skin color.

However, other color words in the name, such as YELLOW, typically provide a recommendation as to the emoji presentation, which should be followed to avoid interoperability problems.

Review Note: Eventually we will need to update the core spec and FAQ to match the recommendations given here.

Emoji characters may not always be displayed on a white background. To prevent the character from not being visually distinct from the background, they are often best given a faint, narrow contrasting border. Thus a Japanese flag would have a border so that it would be visible on a white background, and a Swiss flag have a border so that it is visible on a red background.

Current practice is for emoji to have a square aspect ratio, deriving from their origin in Japanese. For interoperability, it is recommended that this practice be continued with current and future emoji.

Flag emoji characters are discussed in Annex B: Flags.

Combining marks may be applied to emoji, just like they can be applied to other characters. When that is done, the combination should take on an emoji presentation. For example, a 1⃣ is represented as the sequence "1" plus an emoji variation selector plus U+20E3 COMBINING ENCLOSING KEYCAP. Systems are unlikely, however, to support arbitrary combining marks with arbitrary emoji. Aside from U+20E3, the following

For example, ped. ahead (pedestrian crossing ahead) can be represented as 🚶+ U+20E4, and no bike (no bicycles allowed) can be represented as 🚲 + U+20E0.

Review Note: The recommended base characters would be associated with traffic signs and perhaps a few other characters. Should we have data listing those, so that implementations would know what to concentrate on?

2.1 Gender

The following emoji have explicit gender, based on the name and explicit, intentional contrasts with other characters.

U+1F466 boy
U+1F467 girl
U+1F468 man
U+1F469 woman
U+1F474 older man
U+1F475 older woman
U+1F46B man and woman holding hands
U+1F46C two men holding hands
U+1F46D two women holding hands
U+1F6B9 mens symbol
U+1F6BA womens symbol

U+1F478 princess
U+1F46F woman with bunny ears
U+1F470 bride with veil
U+1F472 man with gua pi mao
U+1F473 man with turban
U+1F574 man in business suit levitating
U+1F385 father christmas

All others should be depicted in a gender-neutral way.

Review Note: We may consider documenting for some of these that—despite the name—the depiction should be gender-neutral. Possibilities include: father christmas, guardsman, or man in business suit levitating.

2.2 Diversity

People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone. The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (nonhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette.

Five symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji are planned for Unicode Version 8.0 (scheduled for mid-2015). These characters are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology (there are many examples of this scale online, such as FitzpatrickSkinType.pdf). The exact shades may vary between implementations.

Emoji Skin Tone Modifiers
Code Name Samples

Review Note: the example shades may change before release.

These characters have been designed so that even where diverse color images for human emoji are not available, readers can see what the intended meaning was.

Review Note: the example images below should be refined before release, especially the stippled image.

The default representation of these modifier characters when used alone is as a color swatch. Whenever one of these characters follows certain characters (such as WOMAN), then a font should show the sequence as a single glyph corresponding to the image for the person(s) or body part with the specified skin tone, such as the following:


However, even if the font doesn’t show the combined character, the user can still see that a skin tone was intended:

This may fall back to a black and white stippled or hatched image such as when colorful emoji are not supported.


When a human emoji is not followed by a emoji modifier character, it should use a non-realistic skin tone, such as that typically used for the smiley faces, or a silhouette.

There are several emoji for multi-person groups, such as COUPLE WITH HEART. The emoji modifiers affect all the people in such characters. However, real multi-person groupings include many in which various members have different skin tones. For representing such groupings, users can employ techniques already found in current emoji practice, in which a sequence of emoji is intended to be read together as a unit, with each emoji in the sequence contributing some piece of information about the unit as a whole. Users can simply enter separate emoji characters for each member of the group, each with their own skin tone e.g.: <MAN, TYPE-1-2, WOMAN, TYPE-3>, possibly preceded by a group character.

2.2.1 Implementations

Implementations can present the emoji modifiers as separate characters in an input palette, or present the combined characters using mechanisms such as long press.

The emoji modifiers are not intended for combination with arbitrary emoji characters. Instead, they are restricted to the following set of 145 characters:

Characters Subject to Emoji Modifiers
Type Images Code points and names (in code point order)

(33 code points)
👦 👧 👨 👩 👴 👵 👶 👱 👮 👲 👳 👷 👸 💂 🎅 👼 👯 💆 💇 👰 🙍 🙎 🙅 🙆 💁 🙋 🙇 U+1F385 FATHER CHRISTMAS
U+1F466 BOY
… U+1F469 WOMAN

(118 code points)
☺ ☹ ☻ 🙁 🙂 😀 😁 😂 😃 😄 😅 😆 😉 😊 😋 😌 😍 😎 😏 😐 😑 😒 😓 😔 😕 😖 😗 😘 😙 😚 😛 😜 😝 😞 😟 😠 😡 😢 😣 😤 😥 😦 😧 😨 😩 😪 😫 😬 😭 😮 😯 😰 😱 😲 😳 😴 😵 😶 😷 😇 😈 👿 🙌 🙏 🚶 🏃 💃 👈 👉 ☝ 🖢 🖞 🖠 👆 🖕 ☟ 🖗 🖣 🖟 🖡 👇 ✌ 🖔 🖖 ✊ ✋ 👊 👋 👌 👍 🖒 👎 🖓 👏 👐 ✍ 🖎 🖏 🖐 🖑 💅 💪 👀 👁 👂 👃 👅 💋 👄 🗢 🚴 🚵 🚣 🛀 🏂 🏄 🏇 🏊 U+261D WHITE UP POINTING INDEX
U+1F440 EYES

Of these characters, it is strongly recommended that the minimal set for combination be supported. No characters beyond these two sets should be combined with emoji modifiers. These sets may change over time, with successive versions of this document.

Review Note: These sets may change before this document is final; we would particularly appreciate feedback on whether particular characters should be removed from either of these sets.

The following chart shows the types of display that are expected, depending on the level of support for the emoji modifier:

Expected Emoji Modifiers Display
Support Level Emoji Type Source Display Color Display B&W
Fully supported minimal
other ⛽ + ⛽ ⛽
Fallback minimal
other ⛽ + ⛽ ⛽
Unsupported minimal
other ⛽ + ⛽ ⛽

The “Unsupported” rows show how the character would typically appear on a system that doesn't have a font with that character in it: with a missing glyph indicator.

The interaction between variation selectors and emoji modifiers is specified as follows:

  1. If a modified character (minimal or optional) is used without a variation selector, but with a skin tone modifier, the default appearance is emoji. That is, in the absence of other information, the skin tone modifier implies emoji appearance).
  2. If a modified character (minimal or optional) is used with both a variation selector and a skin tone modifier, the modified character and variation selector must form a valid variation sequence, and the order must be <modified-character, variation-selector, skin-tone-modifier>—otherwise it would be non-conformant Unicode.
  3. If a modified character (minimal or optional) is followed by a variation selector for text appearance (U+FE0E) and then by a skin tone modifier, the recommended behavior is that the character is shown with B&W appearance. It could be combined or not.

Review Note: The above rules should be illustrated in a table.

For input, this can be transparent to the user. On a phone, for example, a long-press on a human figure can bring up a minipalette of different skin tones:


Of course, there are many other types of diversity in human appearance besides different skin tones: Different hair styles and color, use of eyeglasses, various kinds of facial hair, different body shapes, different headwear, and so on. It is beyond the scope of Unicode to provide an encoding-based mechanism for representing every aspect of human appearance diversity that emoji users might want to indicate. The best approach for communicating very specific human images—or any type of image in which preservation of specific appearance is very important—is the use of embedded graphics, as described in Longer Term Solutions.

Review Notes:

3 Which Characters are Emoji

This document provides data in the Data Files for determining the set of characters which are expected to have an emoji presentation, either as a default or as a alternate presentation. This data was derived by starting with the characters that came from the original Japanese sets, plus those that major vendors have provided emoji fonts for. Characters that are similar to those in shape or design were then added. Often these characters are in the same Unicode blocks as the original set, but sometimes not.

While Unicode conformance allows any character to be given an emoji representation, characters that are not listed in the Data files should not normally be given an emoji presentation. For example, pictographic symbols such as keyboard symbols or math symbols (like ANGLE) that should never be treated as emoji. These are current recommendations: existing symbols can be added to this list over time.

This document takes a functional view as to the identification of emoji, which is that pictographs—or symbols that have a graphical form that people may treat as pictographs, such as U+2388 HELM SYMBOL (introduced in Unicode 3.0)—are categorized as emoji, since it is reasonable to give them either an emoji or text presentation, such as:


This follows the pattern set by characters such as U+260E BLACK TELEPHONE (introduced in Unicode 1.1), which can have either an emoji or text presentation, such as:


The data does not include non-pictographs, except for those in Unicode that are used to represent characters from emoji sources, such as:

🈹 or 🆔

Game pieces, such as the dominos (🀰 🀱 🀲 ... 🂑 🂒), are currently not included as emoji, with the exceptions of a playing card (U+1F0CF) and a mah jongg tile (U+1F004). These are included because they correspond each to an emoji character from one of the carrier sets.

Review Note: We would like feedback on characters that should be added to this list in the Data Files, or removed from it. Removal would be warranted if the character is not currently suited for use with an emoji presentation.

Issue: Other excluded punctuation and symbols can be reviewed to see whether or not they should be included, at other-labels.html.

4 Presentation Style

Certain emoji have defined variation sequences, where an emoji character can be followed by one of two invisible variation selectors:

This capability was added in Unicode 6.1. Some systems may also provide this distinction with higher-level markup, rather than variation sequences. For more information on these selectors, see the file StandardizedVariants.html.

Implementations should support both styles of presentation for the characters with variation sequences, if possible. Most of these characters were emoji that were unified with preexisting characters. Because people are now using emoji presentation for a broader set of characters, it is anticipated that more such variation sequences will be needed.

Review Note: Whenever a character could reasonably be used with either presentation, variation sequences should be proposed for Unicode 8.0, scheduled for mid-2015.

However, even where the variation selectors exist, it has not been clear for implementers what the default presentation for pictographs should be: emoji or text? That means that a piece of text may show up in a different style than intended when shared across platforms. While this is all a perfectly legitimate for Unicode characters—presentation style is never guaranteed—it is important to have a shared sense among developers of when to use emoji presentation by default, so that there are fewer unexpected and “jarring” presentations. That is, to promote interoperability across platforms and applications, implementations need to know what the generally expected default presentation is.

That is, there has been no clear line for implementers between three categories of Unicode characters:

  1. emoji-default: those expected to have an emoji presentation by default, but can also have a text presentation
  2. text-default: those expected to have a text presentation by default, but could also have an emoji presentation
  3. text-only: those that should only have a text presentation

The data files associated with this document provides data to distinguish between the first two categories: see the Default column of full-emoji-list. The data assignment is based upon current usage in browsers for Unicode 6.3 characters. For other characters, especially the new 7.0 characters, the assignment is based on that of the related emoji characters. For example, the “vulcan” hand 🖖 is marked as emoji-default because of the emoji styling currently given to other hands like ✋. The text-only characters are all those not listed in the data files.

In general, emoji characters are marked as text-default if they were in common use and predated the use of emoji. The characters are otherwise marked as emoji-default. For example, the negative squared A and B are text-default, while the negative squared AB is emoji-default. The reason is that A and B are part of a set of negative squared letters A-Z, while the AB was a new character. The default status may change over time, however, as a result in the change in usage.

The presentation of a given emoji character depends on the environment, whether or not there is an emoji or text variation selector, and the default presentation style (emoji vs text). The environments include:

Emoji Environments
Environment Examples
Text-Only word processing
Mixed plain web pages
Presentation texting, chats, slides

Review Note: Flesh out the purpose behind what is currently in the table, and provide examples.

Based on those factors, here is typical presentation behavior. However, these guidelines may change with changing user expectations.

Emoji vs Text Display
with Emoji VS
with Text VS
with no VS

Review Note: We would like feedback on draft proposed default presentation in the Data Files: whether characters should have their defaults changed from emoji to text or vice versa.

TO_DO: make most wing/webdings be #2.

5 Ordering and Grouping

Neither the Unicode code point order, nor the standard Unicode Collation ordering (DUCET), are currently well suited for emoji, since they separate conceptually-related characters. For example, here is a selection of characters sorted by DUCET; to users this ordering appears quite random:

↪ ⌚ ⌛ ⎈ ⏩ ⏰ ⏲ ⏳ ▶ ☀ ☝ ☺ 🌞 👇 🕐 😀

The emoji-ordering data file shows an ordering for emoji characters that groups them together in a more natural fashion.

☺ 😀 ☝ 👇 ⎈ ⌛ ⏳ ⌚ ⏰ ⏲ 🕐 ☀ 🌞 ▶ ⏩ ↪

The purpose of this ordering to group characters more naturally for the purpose of selection, but also to group them more naturally in sorted lists.

Review Note: Flesh out the text to make a better distinction between ordering and grouping.

Review Note: We would like feedback on the proposed ordering. The eventual ordering would likely go into CLDR.

6 Input

Emoji are not typically typed on a keyboard. Instead, they are generally picked from a palette, or recognized via a dictionary. The mobile keyboards typically have a ☺ button to select a palette of emoji, such as in the left image below. Clicking on the ☺ button reveals a palette, as in the right image.


The palettes need to be organized in a meaningful way for users. They typically provide a small number of broad categories (5-10), such as People (anything associated with people), Nature, and so on. These categories typically have 100-200 emoji. More advanced palettes will have long-press enabled, so that people can press-and-hold on an emoji and have a set of related emoji pop up. This allows for faster navigation, with less scrolling through the pallette.

Annotations for emoji characters are much more finely grained keywords. They can be used for searching characters, and are often easier than palettes for entering emoji characters. For example, when you type “hourglass” on your mobile phone, you could see and pick from either of the matching emoji characters ⏳ or ⌛. That is often much easier than scrolling through the palette and visually inspecting the screen. Input mechanisms may also map emoticons to emoji as keyboard shortcuts: typing :-) can result in 😄.

In some input systems, a word or phrase bracketed by colons is used to explicitly pick emoji characters. Thus typing in “I saw an :ambulance:” is converted to “I saw an 🚑”. For completeness, such systems might support all of the full Unicode names, such as :first quarter moon with face: for 🌛. Spaces within the phrase may be represented by _, as in the following:

“my :alarm_clock: didn’t work”

“my ⏰ didn’t work”.

However, in general the full Unicode names are not especially suitable for that sort of use; they were designed to be unique identifiers, and tend to be overly long or confusing.

7 Searching

Searching includes both searching for emoji characters in queries, and finding emoji characters in the target. These are most useful when they include the annotations as synonyms or hints. For example, when you search for ⛽ on yelp.com, you see matches for “gas station”. Conversely, searching for “gas pump” in a search engine could find pages containing ⛽. Similarly, searching for “gas pump” in an email program can bring up all the emails containing ⛽.

For both palette categories and annotations, there is no requirement for uniqueness: an emoji should show up wherever users would expect them. A gas pump ⛽ might show up under “object” and “travel”; a heart 💔 under “heart” and “emotion”, a 😻 under “animal”, “cat”, and “heart”.

Annotations are language-specific: searching on yelp.de, you’d expect a search for ⛽ to result in matches for “Tankstelle”. Thus annotations need to be in multiple languages to be useful across languages. They should also include regional annotations within a given language, like “petrol station”, which you’d expect search for ⛽ to result in on yelp.co.uk. An English annotation cannot simply be translated into different languages, since different words may have different associations in different languages. The emoji 🌵 may be associated with Mexican or Southwestern restaurants in the US, but not be associated with them in, say, Greece. The scope of this document is limited to English annotations, but can provide an example for other languages.

There is one further kind of annotation, called a TTS name, for text-to-speech processing. For accessibility when reading text, it is useful to have a short, descriptive name for an emoji character. A Unicode character name can often serve as a basis for this, but its requirements for name uniqueness often ends up with names that are overly long, such as black right-pointing double triangle with vertical bar for ⏯. TTS names are also outside the current scope of this document.

Review Note: We would like feedback on changes to the annotations in the Data Files: additions, removals, or replacements. The eventual annotations would likely go into CLDR. Note that we are not interested in acronyms.

One particular issue is whether or not to include forms of the same word: smile, smiles, smiling, smiled, smiley. The current policy is to only include one form, assuming that any system using the annotations would handle related forms. However, the data has not been completely cleaned up to reflect that policy.

8 Longer Term Solutions

The longer-term goal for implementations should be to support embedded graphics. That would allow arbitrary emoji symbols, and not be dependent on additional Unicode encoding. Some examples of where this is done are:

However, to be as effective and simple to use as emoji, a full solution requires significant infrastructure changes to allow simple, reliable input and transport of images (stickers) in texting, chat, mobile phones, email programs, virtual and mobile keyboards, and so on. Until that time, many implementations will need to use plain-text Unicode emoji instead. (However, these images will never interchange in environments that only support plain text.)

For example, one necessary infrastructure change is to adapt mobile keyboards. Enabling embedded graphics would involve adding an additional custom mechanism for users to add in their own graphics or purchase additional sets, such as a ➕ sign to add an image to the palette above. This would prompt the user to paste or otherwise select a graphic, and add annotations for dictionary selection.

Once this is done, the user could then select those graphics in the same way as selecting the Unicode emoji. If users started adding many custom graphics, the mobile keyboard might even be enhanced to allow ordering or organization of those graphics so that they can be quickly accessed. The extra graphics would need to be disabled if the target of the mobile keyboard (such as an email header line) would only accept text.

Other features required to make embedded graphics work well include the ability of images to scale with font size, inclusion of embedded images in more transport protocols, switching services and applications to use protocols that do permit inclusion of embedded images (eg, MMS versus SMS for text messages). There will always, however, be places where embedded graphics can’t be used—such as email headers, SMS messages, or filenames. There are also privacy aspects to implementations of embedded graphics: if the graphic itself is not packaged with the text, but instead is just a reference to an image on a server, then that server could track usage.

9 Media

There’s been considerable media attention to emoji in 2014. For example, there were some 6,000 articles on the emoji appearing in Unicode 7.0, according to Google News. Here are some examples of recent news about emoji (as of this writing), written with varying degrees of accuracy:

Sample Articles
Pub. Date Source Title
2012-01-25 Typographica Typeface Review: Apple Color Emoji
2013-03-04 The Verge How emoji conquered the world
2013-12-31 Know Your Meme Emoticons
2014-03-25 The Wall Street Journal Hot-Dog Fan Campaigns for New Emoji
2014-03-25 The Wall Street Journal Emoji Origins
2014-03-26 ABC News Why Hot Dog and Taco Emojis Probably Aren’t In Your Future
2014-03-31 The Colbert Report Emoji Ethnicity
2014-04-01 Huffington Post Google Chrome Prank Translates Every Single Word Into Emoji
2014-04-02 The Verge Emoji invades Twitter on the web
2014-04-02 Wired Game of Thrones Fans, Here’s Your Season Three Recap – In Emoji
2014-04-08 Marketplace (public radio) You can now search Yelp for emojis
2014-04-24 CNET Japan Carriers unifying on Unicode Emoji (machine-translated English version)
2014-04-30 TUAW You may be accidentally sending friends a hairy heart emoji
2014-06-17 CommitStrip Unicode 7 et ses nouveaux emoji
2014-06-17 Technology Tell The 15 best emojis in Unicode 7.0
2014-06-17 CBC News 250 new emojis include middle finger, Vulcan salute, no racial diversity
2014-06-17 Vox Where Emoji come from
2014-06-23 Tom Scott Why Do Flag Emoji Count As Two Characters?
2014-06-25 The Wall Street Journal There’s No Hot Dog Emoji, but New Characters Do Include a Hot Pepper
2014-06-27 Huffington Post How Emoji Get Lost In Translation
2014-06-27 New Republic A Peek Inside the Non-Profit Consortium That Makes Emoji Possible
2014-06-30 Fast Company Where Do Emoji Come From?
2014-06-30 NPR Why 140 Characters, When One Will Do? Tracing The Emoji Evolution
2014-07-15 Dissolve Footage Emoji Among Us: The Documentary
2014-07-17 Aspire Are Emoji Ruining (or Improving) Digital Communication?
2014-07-17 Time Here Are Rules of Using Emoji You Didn't Know You Were Following
2014-07-25 New York Times The Emoji Have Won the Battle of Words
2014-08-20 The New Inquiry The Conservatism of Emoji
2014-08-25 USA Today Emoji: Passing fad or new universal language?
2014-08-27 PCWorld The future of emoticons will embrace everyone
2014-08-29 The Atlantic My Week on the All-Emoji Diet
2014-09-03 Mashable Why It's So Hard to Design New Emoji
2014-09-04 Huffington Post You Can Now Use Emojis To Search On Yelp, And It’s Not As Pointless As It Sounds
2014-09-08 Spiegel Emoji-Siegeszug: Die Weltsprache unserer Zeit (machine-translated English version)
2014-09-11 Gizmodo My Day on the Emoji-Only Social Network, Translated (I Think)
2014-10-17 Business Insider The Entire US Economy Depicted In Emoji
2014-10-21 Business Insider Scientists Describe Their Work In Emoji And The Results Are Hilarious
2014-10-27 VentureBeat Microsoft’s Bing beats Google to emoji search

People have written online tools for seeing usage of emoji, such as Emoji Tracker and Silicon Feelings, and animations such as emoji.zone. It’s also become popular to “translate” lyrics or sayings into the closest emoji, such as:


10 Data Files

This is a working draft document, and the data is supplied for now in HTML files, so that people can see sample appearances for the characters.

Review Note: these files will not necessarily be included in the final document, although the emoji-data.txt, the full-emoji-list.html, and emoji-ordering.html will probably be in the final version. Feedback on the files that are more useful would be appreciated.

The most important feedback on data would be on emojiData.txt. These are, in priority order, the following:

  1. characters that should be added or removed
  2. the default presentation style: text vs emoji
  3. the default ordering
  4. additions to or removals from annotations


  1. Move the descriptions of format to each file, and replace links to Data Files above to the specific data file.
  2. Move the data files to /emoji/, a permanent place. (complete this before going to public review.)

The available files are:

Data File Descriptions
File Description
full-emoji-list The main file: a list with images showing depictions from different sources, and the default status and annotations. For the column descriptions, see Full Emoji List.
emoji-data.txt A plain text file with the information from the html file, plus the ordering. For now, the U+ is present, to make importing into a spreadsheet easier
missing-emoji-list A list with images showing where sources don’t have emoji images. The images are not what would appear in that source; instead, they show cases that are marked missing for that source in the full-emoji-list file. So, for example, the image of ☎ in the Android column means that that character (U+260E black telephone) is marked as missing for Android in full-emoji-list. Characters in a “common” row are missing in all of the sources: the image of 🇨🇦 there means that all the sources are missing the Canadian flag.
emoji-list An abbreviated list showing characters, not images. For checking browser/platform support.
emoji-style The proposed default presentation style for each character. Separate rows show the presentation with and without variation selectors, where applicable. Flags are shown with images. Also in column 6 of Full Emoji List.
emoji-labels Characters grouped by palette category. These are building blocks for palette categories, which would group some of these together.
emoji-annotations Characters grouped by annotation. Also in column 7 of Full Emoji List. The annotations are meant to be used in combination to winnow down the matches, so :face moon: would match the characters annotated with both “face” and with “moon”.
emoji-ordering Draft ordering of emoji characters that groups like characters together. Unlike the labels or annotations, each character only occurs once. The flags are presented according to English name. That can be varied by language: for more information, see Annex B: Flags.
other-labels Other general symbols and punctuation. That can be used to scan for other characters that might qualify for emoji presentation.
emoji-versions A view of when different emoji were added to Unicode, by Unicode version.
emoji-versions-sources A view of when different emoji were added to Unicode, and the sources. (See the Version information in Full Emoji List for the source description.) The sources indicate where a Unicode character corresponds to a character in the source. In many cases, the character had already been encoded well before the source was considered for other characters.

These are all live documents and may be updated or changed at any time during the draft development process.

Typically, hovering over an image usually shows the code point and name, and clicking on the image goes to the respective row in the Full Emoji List. Each image has the respective character as an alt value, so copying the image into plain text should (OS permitting) give the plain text character for that image.

The Symbola font can be installed for a readable text presentation where the emoji presentation or black&white fonts are not available on your browser. Your browser’s zoom is also useful for examining the characters and images.

10.1 Full Emoji List

For the full-emoji-list file, the columns are:

Full Emoji-List Columns
Column Description
Count A line count, for reference.
Code The code point(s) for the emoji characters. Some rows have more than one code point where a sequence is required, such as for flags and keycaps. Clicking on the code point puts a link to that row in the address bar.
Browser The character, showing whatever image would be native for the browser.
B&W* The visual appearance of the codes, using the Unicode Chart font, plus PNGs for the flags.
Apple, Andr, Twit, Wind, GMail, DCM, KDDI, SB Images from the respective sources for comparison. The GMail...KDDI are for comparison with images used before incorporation into Unicode.

Note that for the cells marked missing, there are sometimes B&W images that would appear on the source that are not shown here. For example, U+2639 ☹ is shown as missing for Apple, but there are B&W images for it available on Apple platforms.

Name The character name in lowercase (or an informative gloss, for the case of flags and keycaps).
Version The version of Unicode in which the emoji was added. A superscript indicates the source of the character. Where a Unicode character corresponds to multiple sources, multiple superscripts will be present. The sources are:

z ZDings Zapf Dingbats
j JCarrier Japanese telephone carriers
w WDings Wingdings & Webdings
x Other other sources
Default The draft proposed default presentation style. A * indicates that there are variation selectors (text and emoji) for the character.
Annotations A rough-draft list of informative annotations. Clicking on a link goes to the respective row in the emoji-annotations.

Because the name and code point are already present, hovering or clicking on an image don’t have the same effect as in other files. However, the alt values are still present for cut and paste into plain text.

Review Note: add more header information to the files and/or flesh out here and have them link to the right sections here.

Annex A: Terminology

The goal for this annex is to collect the terminology used in connection to emoji for eventual incorporation into the Unicode Glossary.

Emoji - A colorful pictograph that can be used inline in text. Internally the representation is either (a) an image or (b) an encoded character. The term emoji character can be used for (b) where not clear from context.

Emoticon - (1) A series of text characters (typically punctuation or symbols) that is meant to represent a facial expression or gesture such as ;-) (2) a broader sense, also including emoji for facial expressions and gestures.

Review Note: Others TBD, including "core emoji set".

Annex B: Flags

There are 26 REGIONAL INDICATOR symbols that can be used in pairs to represent country flags. This mechanism was designed to be extensible, rather than be limited to just the 10 flags supported by the Japanese carriers.

Where flag emoji characters are supported, they should not just be limited to the 10 Japanese carrier flags. To avoid discriminating against other flags, they should instead be present for all of the valid country codes. More specifically, these are the Unicode region subtags that are neither deprecated, nor private use, and nor macroregions (with the exception of the EU). This can be determined mechanically from data in CLDR. An overseas territory sometimes doesn't have its own flag, or only has flags for subregions. In such cases, it may share the same flag as for the country.

Emoji are generally presented with a square aspect ratio, which presents a problem for flags. The flag for Qatar 🇶🇦 is over 250% wider than tall; for Switzerland 🇨🇭 it is square; for Nepal 🇳🇵 it is over 20% taller than wide. To avoid a ransom-note effect, implementations may want to use a fixed ratio across all flags, such as 150%, with a blank band on the top and bottom. (The average width for flags is between 150% and 165%.) Narrower flags, such as the Swiss flag, may also have white bands on the side.

Flags should have a visible edge. One option is to use a 1 pixel gray line chosen to be contrasting with the adjacent field color.

The code point order of flags is by region code, which will not be intuitive for viewers, since that rarely matches the order of countries in the viewer's language. English speakers are surprised that the flag for Germany comes before the flag for Djibouti. An alternative is to present the sorted order according to the localized country name, using CLDR data.

For an open-source set of flag images (png and svg), see region-flags.

Annex C: Selection Factors

The selection of new emoji is based on a number of factors. None of these factors are completely determinant. For example, the word for an object may be extremely common on the internet, but the object not necessarily a good candidate due to other factors.

Review Note: The following is a draft from the emoji subcommittee, and has yet not been reviewed yet by the Unicode Technical Committee.

  1. Compatibility. Are these needed for compatibility with high-use emoji in existing systems, such as Gmail?
    • For example, FACE WITH ROLLING EYES.
    • There are cases where characters are or have been added for compatibility alone, such as 🆕 SQUARED NEW, or 👷 CONSTRUCTION WORKER. In such cases, many of the other factors don’t apply.
  2. Expected Usage Level. Is there a high expected frequency of use?
    • There are various possible measures of this that can be presented as evidence, such as:
      • whether closely-related characters show up above the median in emojitracker.com
      • the frequency of related words in web pages
      • the frequency in image search (eg, google or bing)
      • whether the object is commonly encountered in daily life
      • multiple usages, such as SHARK for not only the animal, but also for a huckster, in jumping the shark, card shark, loan shark, etc.
  3. Image Distinctiveness. Is there a clearly recognizable image of physical objects that could serve as a paradigm, that would be distinct enough from other emoji?
    • For example, CASSOULET or STEW probably couldn’t be easily distinguished from 🍲 POT OF FOOD.
    • Simple words (“NEW”) or abstract symbols (“∰”) would not qualify as emoji.
    • Note that objects often may represent activities or modifiers, such as 😢CRYING FACE for crying or 🏃 RUNNER for running.
  4. Disparity. Does the proposed pictograph fill in a gap in existing types of emoji?
    • For example, in Unicode 7.0 we have 🐯 TIGER, but not LION; ⛪️ CHURCH but not MOSQUE.
  5. Frequently Requested. Is it often requested of the Unicode Consortium, or of Unicode member companies?
    • For example, HOT DOG or UNICORN.
  6. Generality. Is the proposed character overly specific?
    • For example, 🍣 SUSHI represents sushi in general, even though a common image will be of a specific type, such as Maguro. Adding SABA, HAMACHI, SAKE, AMAEBI and others would be overly specific.
  7. Open-Ended. Is it just one of many, with no special reason to favor it over others of that type?
    • For example, there are thousands of people, including occupations (DOCTOR, DENTIST, JANITOR, POLITICIAN, etc.): is there a special reason to favor particular ones of them?
  8. Already Representable. Can the concept be represented by another emoji or sequence?
    • For example, a crying baby can already be represented by 😢👶 CRYING FACE + BABY
    • A building associated with a particular religion might be represented by a (possible) PLACE OF WORSHIP emoji followed by a one of the many religious symbols in Unicode.
    • Halloween could be represented by either just 🎃 JACK-O-LANTERN, or a sequence of  🎃👻 JACK-O-LANTERN + GHOST.


Mark Davis and Peter Edberg created the initial versions of this document, and maintain the text.

Thanks to Shervin Afshar, Norbert Lindenberg, Ken Lunde, Katsuhiko Momoi, Katrina Parrott, Markus Scherer, and Ken Whistler for feedback on this document, including earlier versions.


Review Note: We’ll flesh out the references later.

[Unicode] The Unicode Standard
For the latest version, see:
[UTR36] UTR #36: Unicode Security Considerations
[UTS39] UTS #39: Unicode Security Mechanisms
[Versions] Versions of the Unicode Standard
For details on the precise contents of each version of the Unicode Standard, and how to cite them.


The following summarizes modifications from the previous revisions of this document.

Revision 1