[Unicode]  Technical Reports

Proposed Update Unicode® Technical Standard #51

Unicode Emoji

Version 11.0 (draft 4)
Editors Mark Davis (Google Inc.), Peter Edberg (Apple Inc.)
Date 2018-04-04
This Version http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr51/tr51-13.html
Previous Version http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr51/tr51-12.html
Latest Version http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr51/
Latest Proposed Update http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr51/proposed.html
Revision 13



This document defines the structure of Unicode emoji characters and sequences, and provides data to support that structure, such as which characters are considered to be emoji, which emoji should be displayed by default with a text style versus an emoji style, and which can be displayed with a variety of skin tones. It also provides design guidelines for improving the interoperability of emoji characters across platforms and implementations.

After Version 5.0 of this document, the repertoire of emoji characters is synchronized with the Unicode Standard, and has the same version numbering system. For details, see Section 1.5.2 Versioning.


This is a draft document which may be updated, replaced, or superseded by other documents at any time.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.

A Unicode Technical Standard (UTS) is an independent specification. Conformance to the Unicode Standard does not imply conformance to any UTS.

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 extremely popular worldwide. As of March 2015, for example, Instagram reported that “nearly half of text [on Instagram] contained emoji.” Individual emoji also vary greatly in popularity (and even by country), as described in the SwiftKey Emoji Report. See emoji press page for details about these reports and others.

Emoji are most often used in quick, short social media messages, where they connect with the reader and add flavor, color, and emotion. Emoji do not have the grammar or vocabulary to substitute for written language. In social media, emoji make up for the lack of gestures, facial expressions, and intonation that are found in speech. They also add useful ambiguity to messages, allowing the writer to convey many different possible concepts at the same time. Many people are also attracted by the challenge of composing messages in emoji, and puzzling out emoji messages.

The word emoji comes from the Japanese:

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

Emoji may be represented internally as graphics or they may be represented by normal glyphs encoded in fonts like other characters. These latter are called emoji characters for clarity. Some Unicode characters are normally displayed as emoji; some are normally displayed as ordinary text, and some can be displayed both ways.

There’s been considerable media attention to emoji since they appeared in the Unicode Standard, with increased attention starting in late 2013. For example, there were some 6,000 articles on the emoji appearing in Unicode 7.0, according to Google News. See the emoji press page for many samples of such articles, and also the Keynote from the 38th Internationalization & Unicode Conference.

Emoji became available in 1999 on Japanese mobile phones. There was an early proposal in 2000 to encode DoCoMo emoji in the Unicode standard. At that time, it was unclear whether these characters would come into widespread use—and there was not support from the Japanese mobile phone 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 text encoding extensions, which were incompatible with one another. 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 2007external link.

There are, however, many problems with a private-use approach, and thus a proposal was made to the Unicode Consortium to expand the scope of symbols to encompass emoji. This proposal was approved in May 2007, leading to the formation of a symbols subcommittee, and in August 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

To find the documents in this table, see UTC Documents.

In 2009, the first Unicode characters explicitly intended as emoji were added to Unicode 5.2 for interoperability with the ARIB (Association of Radio Industries and Businesses) set. A set of 722 characters was defined as the union of emoji characters used by Japanese mobile phone carriers: 114 of these characters were already in Unicode 5.2. In 2010, the remaining 608 emoji characters were added to Unicode 6.0, along with some other emoji characters. In 2012, a few more emoji were added to Unicode 6.1, and in 2014 a larger number were added to Unicode 7.0. Additional characters have been added since then, based on the Selection Factors found in Submitting Emoji Character Proposals.

Here is a summary of when some of the major sources of pictographs used as emoji were encoded in Unicode. Each source may include other characters in addition to emoji, and Unicode characters can correspond to multiple sources. The L column contains single-letter abbreviations of the various sources for use in charts [emoji-charts] and data files [emoji-data]. Characters that do not correspond to any of these sources can be marked with Other (x).

Major Sources
Unicode Version
Sample Character
CLDR Short Name
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 Version Sources [emoji-charts]. The data file [JSources] shows the correspondence to the original Japanese carrier symbols.

People often ask how many emoji are in the Unicode Standard. This question does not have a simple answer, because there is no clear line separating which pictographic characters should be displayed with a typical emoji style. For a complete picture, see Which Characters are Emoji.

The colored images used in this document and associated charts [emoji-charts] are for illustration only. They do not appear in the Unicode Standard, which has only black and white images. They are either made available by the respective vendors for use in this document, or are believed to be available for non-commercial reuse. Inquiries for permission to use vendor images should be directed to those vendors, not to the Unicode Consortium. For more information, see Rights to Emoji Images.

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 emojiexternal link, 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 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 the 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 very important that the standard be stable, and that every character that goes into it be scrutinized carefully. This requires a formal process with a long development cycle. For example, the 🕶 dark sunglasses character was first proposed years before it was released in Unicode 7.0.

Characters considered for encoding must normally be in widespread use as elements of text. 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 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.

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

🈹 or 🆔

Game pieces, such as the dominos (🀰 🀱 🀲 ... 🂑 🂒), are currently not included as emoji, with the exceptions of U+1F0CF ( 🈹 ) PLAYING CARD BLACK JOKER and U+1F004 ( 🈹 ) MAHJONG TILE RED DRAGON. These are included because they correspond each to an emoji character from one of the carrier sets.

The selection factors used to weigh the encoding of prospective candidates are found in Selection Factors in Submitting Emoji Character Proposals. That document also provides instructions for submitting proposals for new emoji.

For a list of frequently asked questions on 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.

1.4 Definitions

The following provide more formal definitions of some of the terms used in this document. Readers who are more interested in other features of the document may choose to continue from Section 2 Design Guidelines.

ED-1. 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.

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

1.4.1 Emoji Characters

ED-3. emoji character — A character that has the Emoji property. These are the characters recommended for use as emoji.

emoji_character := \p{Emoji}

ED-4. extended pictographic character — a character that has the Extended_Pictographic property. These are the characters that are pictographic, or otherwise similar in kind to characters with the Emoji property.

Review Notes:

The EP property is not intended to serve as an intrinsic category of characters, useful outside of segmentation. It is instead purely a set of characters whose goal is reduce compatibility difficulties with segmentation. The use of "Pictographic" in the name is because of the nature of some large groupings of characters that are included. We are likely to change the name to reduce confusion, and suggestions are welcome.

The property was added to LDML for future-proofing of segmentation for emoji, and has now been integrated in with the other emoji properties; it has also been in use in ICU.

The use of Extended_Pictographic in the above rules is predicated on having the rule syntax allow use of properties outside of the one dedicated for the algorithm, as is done in ICU and as described in L2/16­-192 “Other properties in segmentation rules”. We'd held off from making that change until we had a compelling change. Making the change also allows symplification of existing rules, since there would be no need for the partitioning between, for example, E_Base_GAZ and Glue_After_Zwj.

If that step is not taken, then it would require artificial partitioning as has been done before. Linebreak is the worst case, since there are the following overlaps. Note what we did earlier for Linebreak was take the expedient approach, by making sure that the known and planned ZWJ sequences were covered. So we didn't cover all the partition cases either.

ExPic Emoji Line_Break
1,236 862 Ideographic
297 137 Alphabetic
102 102 E_Base
72 35 Ambiguous
2 2 Nonstarter
1 1 Exclamation

ED-5. (This definition has been removed.)

For more information, see Section 3 Which Characters are Emoji.

1.4.2 Emoji Presentation

ED-6. default emoji presentation character — A character that, by default, should appear with an emoji presentation, rather than a text presentation.

default_emoji_presentation_character := \p{Emoji_Presentation}

ED-7. default text presentation character — A character that, by default, should appear with a text presentation, rather than an emoji presentation.

default_text_presentation_character := \P{Emoji_Presentation}

For more details about emoji and text presentation, see Section 2 Design Guidelines and Section 4 Presentation Style.

1.4.3 Emoji and Text Presentation Sequences

ED-8. text presentation selector — The character U+FE0E VARIATION SELECTOR-15 (aka VS15), used to request a text presentation for an emoji character. (Also known as text variation selector in prior versions of this specification.)

text_presentation_selector := \x{FE0E}

ED-8a. text presentation sequence — A variation sequence consisting of an emoji character followed by a text presentation selector.

text_presentation_sequence := emoji_character text_presentation_selector

ED-9. emoji presentation selector — The character U+FE0F VARIATION SELECTOR-16 (aka VS16), used to request an emoji presentation for an emoji character. (Also known as emoji variation selector in prior versions of this specification.)

emoji_presentation_selector := \x{FE0F}

ED-9a. emoji presentation sequence — A variation sequence consisting of an emoji character followed by a emoji presentation selector.

emoji_presentation_sequence := emoji_character emoji_presentation_selector

ED-10. (This definition has been removed.)

1.4.4 Emoji Modifiers

ED-11. emoji modifier — A character that can be used to modify the appearance of a preceding emoji in an emoji modifier sequence.

emoji_modifier := \p{Emoji_Modifier}

ED-12. emoji modifier base — A character whose appearance can be modified by a subsequent emoji modifier in an emoji modifier sequence.

emoji_modifier_base := \p{Emoji_Modifier_Base}

ED-13. emoji modifier sequence — A sequence of the following form:

emoji_modifier_sequence :=
  emoji_modifier_base emoji_modifier

For more details about emoji modifiers, see Section 2.2 Diversity.

1.4.5 Emoji Sequences

ED-14. emoji flag sequence — A sequence of two Regional Indicator characters, where the corresponding ASCII characters are valid region sequences as specified by Unicode region subtags in [CLDR], with idStatus="regular" or "deprecated". See also Annex B: Valid Emoji Flag Sequences. A singleton Regional Indicator character is called an ill-formed emoji flag sequence.

emoji_flag_sequence :=
  regional_indicator regional_indicator

regional_indicator := \p{Regional_Indicator}

ED-14a. emoji tag sequence (ETS) — A sequence of the following form:

emoji_tag_sequence := tag_base tag_spec tag_term
tag_base           := emoji_character
                    | emoji_modifier_sequence
                    | emoji_presentation_sequence
tag_spec           := [\x{E0020}-\x{E007E}]+
tag_term           := \x{E007F}

The meaning and validity criteria for an emoji_tag_sequence and expected visual variants for a tag_spec are determined by Annex C: Valid Emoji Tag Sequences. A sequence of tag characters that is not part of a emoji tag sequence is called an ill-formed emoji tag sequence.

ED-14b. emoji combining sequence — A sequence of the following form:

emoji_combining_sequence :=
( emoji_character | emoji_presentation_sequence | emoji_keycap_sequence text_presentation_sequence )


enclosing_mark := \p{General_Category=Enclosing_Mark}

ED-14c. emoji keycap sequence — An emoji combining sequence of the following form:

emoji_keycap_sequence := [0-9#*] \x{FE0F 20E3}

ED-15. emoji core sequence — A sequence of the following form:

emoji_core_sequence :=
| emoji_modifier_sequence
| emoji_flag_sequence

ED-15a. emoji zwj element — A more limited element that can be used in an emoji ZWJ sequence, as follows:

emoji_zwj_element :=
| emoji_presentation_sequence
| emoji_modifier_sequence
| emoji_tag_sequence

Review note: the emoji subcommittee would like feedback on the addition of tag sequences to emoji_zwj_element. No tag sequences are currently planned for inclusion in zwj sequences; however, if the tag sequence mechanism is expanded in the future (e.g. to represent arbitrary emoji from an external registry) then it might be desirable to permit use of the new tag sequence types in a ZWJ sequence. Adding the syntactic option now may help prevent implementers from having to change parsers on short notice in the future; however it may also mean updating existing parsers to add complexity that will never be used.

ED-16. emoji zwj sequence — An emoji sequence with at least one joiner character.

emoji_zwj_sequence :=
  emoji_zwj_element ( ZWJ emoji_zwj_element )+

ZWJ := \x{200d}

ED-17. emoji sequence — A core sequence or ZWJ sequence, as follows:

emoji_sequence :=
| emoji_zwj_sequence
| emoji_tag_sequence

ED-18. fully-qualified emoji zwj sequence — An emoji zwj sequence in which every default text presentation character (ED-7) is either followed by an emoji modifier or followed by an emoji presentation selector, and there are no other emoji or text presentation selectors in the sequence.

ED-19. non-fully-qualified emoji zwj sequence — An emoji zwj sequence that is not a fully-qualified emoji zwj sequence.

For recommendations on the use of variation selectors in emoji sequences, see Section 2.4 Emoji Implementation Notes.

1.4.6 Emoji Sets

The following sets are defined based on the data files and properties described in Annex A: Emoji Properties and Data Files. The composition of these sets may change from one release to the next.

ED-20. basic emoji set — The set of emoji code points and emoji presentation sequences intended for general-purpose input.

ED-21. emoji keycap sequence set — The specific set of emoji sequences listed in the emoji-sequences.txt file [emoji-data] under the category Emoji_Keycap_Sequence.

ED-22. emoji modifier sequence set — The specific set of emoji sequences listed in the emoji-sequences.txt file [emoji-data] under the category Emoji_Modifier_Sequence.

Note: The following definitions use the acronym “RGI” to mean “recommended for general interchange”, referring to that subset of some larger set that is most likely to be widely supported across multiple platforms.

ED-23. RGI emoji flag sequence set — The specific set of emoji sequences listed in the emoji-sequences.txt file [emoji-data] under the category Emoji_Flag_Sequence.

ED-24. RGI emoji tag sequence set — The specific set of emoji sequences listed in the emoji-sequences.txt file [emoji-data] under the category Emoji_Tag_Sequence.

ED-25. RGI emoji ZWJ sequence set — The specific set of emoji sequences listed in the emoji-zwj-sequences.txt file [emoji-data].

ED-26. RGI sequence set — The set of all sequences covered by ED-23, ED-24, and ED-25.

1.4.7 Notation

Character names in all capitals are the formal Unicode Name property values, such as U+1F473 MAN WITH TURBAN. The formal names are immutable internal identifiers, but often do not reflect the current practice for interpretation of the character.

Lowercase character names for existing existing characters or sequences are CLDR short names, such as U+1F473 person wearing turban. Lowercase names may also be illustrative names, such as for the sequence 🎙⃠ <U+1F399 U+20E0> no microphones.

1.4.8 Property Stability

The emoji properties are stable for each version of the data, in that they will not change for that version. They may, however, change between that version and a subsequent version. For example, isEmoji(♟)=false for Emoji Version 5.0, but true for Version 11.0.

The emoji properties may not be closed over particular string operations. For example:

While the following strings form a case pair, the emoji presentation selector is not defined for ⓜ, and thus has no effect on its rendering:

1.4.9 EBNF and Regex

The following EBNF can be used to scan for possible emoji, which can then be verified by performing validity tests according to the definitions. It is much simpler than the expressions currently in the definitions: it can be thought of as a “convex hull” of what is matched by those definitions. It also includes some degenerate cases as a by-product of that simplicity, but those are weeded out by validity tests in any event.

EBNF Notes
possible_emoji :=
| zwj_element (\x{200D} zwj_element)+
200D = joiner
flag_sequence :=
  \p{RI} \p{RI}
RI = Regional_Indicator
zwj_element := 
  \p{Emoji} emoji_modification?

emoji_modification :=
| \x{FE0F} \x{20E3}?
| tag_modifier
EMod = Emoji_Modifier
FE0F = emoji VS
20E3 = enclosing keycap

tag_modifier :=
[\x{E0020}-\x{E007E}]+ \x{E007F}
E00xx are tags
E007F is the TERM tag

From this a regex can be generated, as below. While it may seem complex, it is far simpler than what would result from the definitions, which result in regex expressions which are many times more complicated, and yet still require verification with validity tests.

  \p{RI} \p{RI}
| \p{Emoji}
( \p{EMod}
| \x{FE0F} \x{20E3}?
| [\x{E0020}-\x{E007E}]+ \x{E007F} )?
(\x{200D} \p{Emoji}
( \p{EMod} | \x{FE0F} \x{20E3}? | [\x{E0020}-\x{E007E}]+ \x{E007F} )?)+

Note that this EBNF (and Regex) shares a characteristic with the Definitions: it is finer-grained than a grapheme cluster. That is, if you have “A<zwj><emoji>”, the Unicode 10 grapheme cluster rule GB11 will cause that to be one grapheme cluster, while a scanner based on the EBNF will find an emoji within that grapheme cluster. (Similarly, a scanner looking for ASCII letters will find an “A” within that same grapheme cluster.

1.5 Conformance

Conformance to this specification is specified by the following clauses.

C1. An implementation claiming conformance to this specification shall identify the version of this specification to which conformance is claimed.

C2. An implementation claiming conformance to this specification shall identify which of the capabilities specified below are supported for which emoji sets ED-20 through ED-25. This must include at least the C2a display capability for set ED-20 basic emoji set. For example, an implementation can declare that it supports the display, editing and input capabilities for the basic emoji set, and the display and editing capabilities for the emoji modifier sequence set, and may make no claim of capabilities for any other sets.

Emoji Capabilities
C2a display The implementation is capable of displaying each of the characters and sequences in the specified set as a single glyph with emoji presentation.
C2b editing The implementation treats each of the characters and sequences in the specified set as an indivisible unit for editing purposes (cursor movement, deletion, line breaking, and so on).
C2c input The implementation provides a mechanism for inputting each of the characters and sequences in the specified set as a single glyph with emoji presentation.

An implementation may claim partial conformance to C2, specifying the set of characters that it does not support. For example, an implementation could claim conformance to C2 for all emoji sets and capabilities except for the set [⏏ {🇺🇳}], that is:

C3. An implementation claiming conformance to this specification must not support an invalid emoji_flag_sequence or invalid or ill-formed emoji_tag_sequence for display or input, except for a fallback display depiction indicating the presence of an invalid sequence, such as .

An implementation may support any of the following for display, editing, or input:

1.5.1 Collation Conformance

Implementations can claim conformance for emoji collation or short names by conforming to a particular version of CLDR.

1.5.2 Versioning

After Version 5.0 of this document, the repertoire of emoji characters is synchronized with the Unicode Standard, and has the same version numbering system. Thus the next version after Emoji 5.0 is Emoji 11.0. Implementers should note that intermediate versions of Emoji might be released between major versions of the Unicode Standard, such as an Emoji Version 11.1. For example, such an intermediate version might add RGI sequences.

The following table shows the corresponding Emoji and Unicode Standard versions, up to version 11.0.

Emoji Version Date Unicode Standard Version
Emoji 1.0 2015-06-09 Unicode 8.0
Emoji 2.0 2015-11-12 Unicode 8.0
Emoji 3.0 2016-06-03 Unicode 9.0
Emoji 4.0 2016-11-22 Unicode 9.0
Emoji 5.0 2017-06-20 Unicode 10.0
Emoji 11.0 TBD Unicode 11.0

2 Design Guidelines

Unicode characters can have many different presentations as text. An "a" for example, can look quite different depending on the font. Emoji characters can have two main 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 someone changes the text color in a word processor, a character with an emoji presentation will not change color.

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

emoji examples

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-emojiexternal link. 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. See Section 2.5 Emoji Glyph Facing Direction

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+1F777 CONSTRUCTION WORKER, the recommendation is to use a neutral graphic like 🙋 (with an orange skin tone) instead of an overly specific image like 🙋 (with a light skin tone). This includes the emoji modifier base characters listed in Sample Emoji Modifier Bases. The emoji modifiers allow for variations in skin tone to be expressed.

Unicode 9.0 adds several characters intended to complete gender pairs, and there are ongoing efforts to provide more gender choices in the future. For more information, see the Unicode Emoji FAQSection 2.1 Gender.

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.

Emoji characters may not always be displayed on a white background. They are often best given a faint, narrow contrasting border to keep the character visually distinct from a similarly colored background. 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. They will typically have about the same vertical placement and advance width as CJK ideographs. For example:


They should use transparency for proper display for selection and with colored backgrounds:


Flag emoji characters are discussed in Annex B: Valid Emoji Flag Sequences .

Combining enclosing 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 presentation selector plus U+20E3 COMBINING ENCLOSING KEYCAP. Systems are unlikely, however, to support arbitrary combining marks with arbitrary emoji. Aside from U+20E3, the most likely to be supported is:

For example:

However, U+20E0 and U+20E3 are the only combining marks recommended for such usage.

The set of supported emoji sequences may vary by platform. For example, take the following emoji zwj sequence:


On a particular platform, it can be shown as a single image:


However, if that combination is not supported as a single unit, it may show up as a sequence like the following, and the user sees no indication that it was meant to be composed into a single image:


Implementations could provide an indication of the composed nature of an unsupported emoji sequence where possible. This gives users the additional information that that sequence was intended to have a composed form. It also explains why the sequence will not behave as separate elements: The arrow key will not move between the flag and the skull & crossbones, and line breaks will not occur between apparently separate emoji.

The following is an example of an approach that implementations can use. There are other approaches that could have a more intuitive appearance, but that could be difficult to implement with current text display mechanisms.

  1. Bridging — display the ZWJ as a visible “glue” character, zero or very narrow width.

    bridged zwj

2.1 Gender

The following human-form emoji are currently considered to have explicit gender appearance based on the name and/or practice. They intentionally contrast with other characters. This list may change in the future if new explicit-gender characters are added, or if some of these are changed to be gender-neutral. The names below are the CLDR short names.

U+1F466 boy
U+1F467 girl
U+1F468 man
U+1F469 woman
U+1F474 old man
U+1F475 old woman

U+1F46B man and woman holding hands
U+1F46C two men holding hands
U+1F46D two women holding hands

U+1F385 Santa Claus
U+1F936 Mrs. Claus
U+1F478 princess
U+1F934 prince
U+1F483 woman dancing
U+1F57A man dancing

U+1F470 bride with veil
U+1F935 man in tuxedo

U+1F930 pregnant woman
U+1F931 breast-feeding
U+1F9D5 woman with headscarf

U+1F574 man in business suit levitating
U+1F472 man with Chinese cap

2.1.1 Gender Neutral Emoji

It is often the case that gender is unknown or irrelevant, as in the usage “Is there a doctor on the plane?,” or a gendered appearance may not be desired. Other than the above list, human-form emoji should normally be depicted in a gender-neutral way unless gender appearance is explicitly specified using an emoji ZWJ sequence in one of the following ways: .

Type Description Examples
Sign Format A human-form emoji can be given explicit gender by composing a ZWJ sequence using a following ZWJ and either FEMALE SIGN or MALE SIGN. The human-form emoji without such as sequence should be gender-neutral in form. man runner = RUNNER + ZWJ + MALE SIGN
woman runner = RUNNER + ZWJ + FEMALE SIGN
runner = RUNNER
Object Format A profession or role emoji can be formed by composing a ZWJ sequence starting with a MAN or WOMAN and ending with an object. As of Unicode 10.0, the new ADULT character can be used for a gender-neutral version. man astronaut = MAN + ZWJ + ROCKET SHIP
woman astronaut = WOMAN + ZWJ + ROCKET SHIP
astronaut = ADULT + ZWJ + ROCKET SHIP

Although the human-form emoji used in Sign Format ZWJ sequences are supposed to have gender-neutral appearance by themselves (when not used in a Sign Format ZWJ sequence), for historical reasons many vendors do depict these human-form emoji as a man or woman, so they have the same appearance as one of the Sign Format ZWJ sequences. At the time of this writing, for example, most vendors have the detective look like the man detective and the person getting haircut look like the woman getting haircut, but some vendors have the police officer look like the man police officer while others have it look like the woman police officer.

Gender-neutral versions of the profession or role emoji using Object Format would be promulgated by adding them to the RGI emoji tag sequence set. None have yet been added, pending assessment of the implementation experience with the new Unicode 10.0 characters ADULT, CHILD and OLDER ADULT.

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. intended to be generic and shown with a generic (nonhuman) appearance such as a yellow/orange color similar to that used for smiley faces.

Five symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji were released in Unicode Version 8.0 (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.pdfexternal link). The exact shades may vary between implementations.

Emoji Modifiers
Code CLDR Short Name Unicode Character Name Samples
U+1F3FC medium-light skin tone EMOJI MODIFIER FITZPATRICK TYPE-3

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

When used alone, the default representation of these modifier characters is a color swatch. Whenever one of these characters immediately 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 immediately followed by a emoji modifier character, it should use a generic, non-realistic skin tone, such as RGB #FFCC22 (one of the colors typically used for the smiley faces).

For example, the following set uses gray as the generic skin tone:


No particular hair color is required, however, dark hair is generally regarded as more neutral because black (or very dark brown) hair is widespread among people every skin tone. Exceptions are older people, and characters or ZWJ sequences with explicit hair color, such as PERSON WITH BLOND HAIR, which needs to have blond hair regardless of skin tone.

To have an effect on an emoji, an emoji modifier must immediately follow that base emoji character. Emoji presentation selectors are neither needed nor recommended for emoji characters when they are followed by emoji modifiers, and should not be used in newly generated emoji modifier sequences; the emoji modifier automatically implies the emoji presentation style. See ED-13. emoji modifier sequence. However, some older data may include defective emoji modifier sequences in which an emoji presentation selector does occur between the base emoji character and the emoji modifier; this is the only exception to the rule that an emoji modifier must immediately follow the character that it modifies. In this case the emoji presentation selector should be ignored. For handling text presentation selectors in sequences, see Section 4 Presentation Style.


Any other intervening character causes the emoji modifier to appear as a free-standing character. Thus

 +  → 

2.2.1 Multi-Person Groupings

Emoji for multi-person groupings present some special challenges:

The basic solution for each of these cases is to represent the multi-person grouping as a sequence of characters—a separate character for each person intended to be part of the grouping, along with characters for any other symbols that are part of the grouping. Each person in the grouping could optionally be followed by an emoji modifier. For example, conveying the notion of COUPLE WITH HEART for a couple involving two women can use a sequence with WOMAN followed by an emoji-style HEAVY BLACK HEART followed by another WOMAN character; each of the WOMAN characters could have an emoji modifier if desired.

This makes use of conventions already found in current emoji usage, in which certain sequences of characters are intended to be displayed as a single unit.

2.2.2 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 emoji modifier base characters: no other characters are to be combined with emoji modifiers. This set may change over time, with successive versions of this document. To find the exact list of emoji modifier bases for each version, use the Emoji_Modifier_Base character property, as described in Annex A: Emoji Properties and Data Files.

Sample Emoji Modifier Bases
👦 👧 👨 👩 👴 👵 👶 👱 👮 👲 👳 👷 👸 💂 🕵 🎅 👼 💆 💇 👰 🙍 🙎 🙅 🙆 💁 🙋 🙇 🙌 🙏 🚶 🏃 💃 💪 👈 👉 ☝ 👆 🖕 👇 ✌ 🖖 🤘 🖐 ✊ ✋ 👊 👌 👍 👎 👋 👏 👐 ✍ 💅 👂 👃 🚣 🛀 🏄 🏊 ⛹ 🏋 🚴 🚵

The following chart shows the expected display with emoji modifiers, depending on the preceding character and the level of support for the emoji modifier. The “Unsupported” rows show how the character would typically appear on a system that does not have a font with that character in it: with a missing glyph indicator. In some circumstances, display of an emoji modifier following an Emoji_Modifier_Base character should or may be suppressed:

Expected Emoji Modifiers Display
Support Level Emoji Modifier Base Sequence Display Color Display B&W
Fully supported Yes    
Yes, but no skin visible 🏂 🏂  🏂 
Yes, but unusual default skin tone
(differs from other emoji modifier bases)
🧛 🧛  🧛 
(for example, fuel pump)
⛽ ⛽  ⛽ 
Fallback Yes    
No ⛽ ⛽  ⛽ 
Unsupported Yes    
No ⛽ ⛽  ⛽ 

As noted above at the end of Section 2.2 Diversity, emoji presentation selectors are neither needed nor recommended for use in emoji modifier sequences. See ED-13. emoji modifier sequence. However, older data may include defective emoji modifier sequences which do include emoji presentation selectors.

2.2.3 Emoji Modifiers in Text

A supported emoji modifier sequence should be treated as a single grapheme cluster for editing purposes (cursor moment, deletion, and so on); word break, line break, and so on. For input, the composition of that cluster does not need to be apparent to the user: it appears on the screen as a single image. On a phone, for example, a long-pressexternal link on a human figure can bring up a minipalette of different skin tones, without the user having to separately find the human figure and then the modifier. The following shows some possible appearances:


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.

2.3 Emoji ZWJ Sequences

The U+200D ZERO WIDTH JOINER (ZWJ) can be used between the elements of a sequence of characters to indicate that a single glyph should be presented if available. An implementation may use this mechanism to handle such an emoji zwj sequence as a single glyph, with a palette or keyboard that generates the appropriate sequences for the glyphs shown. To the user of such a system, these behave like single emoji characters, even though internally they are sequences.

When an emoji zwj sequence is sent to a system that does not have a corresponding single glyph, the ZWJ characters are ignored and a fallback sequence of separate emoji is displayed. Thus an emoji zwj sequence should only be defined and supported by implementations where the fallback sequence would also make sense to a recipient.

For example, the following are possible displays:

ZWJ Sequence Display
Sequence Display Combined glyph?

See also the Emoji ZWJ Sequences [emoji-charts].

The use of ZWJ sequences may be difficult in some implementations, so caution should taken before adding new sequences.

For recommendations on the use of variation selectors in ZWJ sequences, see Section 2.4 Emoji Implementation Notes below.

2.4 Emoji Implementation Notes

This section describes important implementation features of emoji, including the use of emoji and text presentation selectors, how to do segmentation, and handling of TAG characters.

2.4.1 Emoji and Text Presentation Selectors

Characters Variation / Behavior
emoji combining sequence
may contain an emoji or text presentation selector
should have emoji presentation selectors on base characters with Emoji_Presentation=No whenever an emoji presentation is desired
emoji flag sequence does not contain an emoji or text presentation selector
should be displayed with an emoji presentation by default
emoji modifier sequence does not contain an emoji or text presentation selector
should be displayed with an emoji presentation by default, whether or not the modifier base has Emoji_Presentation=Yes
  • Implementations may choose to support old data that contains defective emoji_modifier_sequences, that is, having emoji presentation selectors.
emoji zwj sequence may have an emoji presentation selector

The recommended behavior is:

User Input​: Processing​ and Display: A text presentation selector breaks an emoji zwj sequence, preventing characters on either side from displaying as a single image. The two partial sequences should be displayed as separate images, each with presentation style as specified by any presentation selectors present, or by default style for those emoji that do not have any variation selectors.

2.4.2 Segmentation

Some changes to rules and data are needed for best segmentation behavior of additional emoji zwj sequences, prior to the eventual publication of Unicode 10.0. Such changes are included in CLDR Version 31 [CLDR31].

2.4.3 Handling TAG Characters

The properties for TAG characters U+E0020..U+E007F (TAG SPACE..CANCEL TAG) have been modified for use in indicating variants or extensions of emoji characters. For detailed information on handling TAG sequences correctly, see Annex C: Valid Emoji Tag Sequences.

2.5 Emoji Glyph Facing Direction

Emoji with glyphs that face to the right or left may face either direction, according to vendor preference. However, that can cause a definite change in meaning when exchanging text across platforms. The following ZWJ mechanism can be used to pick an explicit direction.

Appears to User Internal Representation Fallback Appearance
👩 👩❤️‍❤️‍ 👩❤️‍
👩 👩❤️‍❤️‍ 👩❤️‍

Review Notes:

2.7 Hair Components

Emoji version 11.0 introduces hair color components, which can be used in ZWJ sequences to indicate hair styles. The sequences recommended for general interchange (RGI) are listed in the data files. The components include:

There are hundreds of possible distinctions among hair styles, but to to limit the number of combinations — and because emoji are presented with a “cartoon” style — the hair components are limited to a small number. Blond, brown, and black-haired were also considered, but blond was already provided for by an explicit blond man/woman/person emoji, and brown/black-haired are already typical defaults for hair color in human-form emoji.

2.6 Composing ZWJ Sequences

When composing ZWJ sequences for an individual person, the following order should be used:

3 Which Characters are Emoji

There are different ways to count the emoji in Unicode, especially since sequences of emoji may appear as single emoji image. The following provides an overview of the ways to count emoji. There is no single number; it can be (for example):

It is recommended that any font or keyboard whose goal is to support Unicode emoji should support the characters and sequences listed in the [emoji-data] data files. The best definition of the full set is in the emoji-test.txt file.

The following table provides more detail about the various counts as of the current version of this specification.

There is a “Subtotal” row in the table below. Emoji components (single Regional Indicators, keycap bases, …) are not typically used as emoji by themselves, so they are listed as “components”. There are only 26 Regional Indicator (RI) code points, which are used in pairs. Some of these 676 pairs may be displayed as emoji flags, and others may not (the valid pairs are defined in Annex B: Valid Emoji Flag Sequences ).

There are also a number of ZWJ sequences that typically have the same image as some singleton or modifier sequence, because vendors aren't yet supporting “gender-neutral” forms. These are listed under “typical dup” below. The Subtotal line does not include these components or typical dup values, and so is a better reflection of what people would see on emoji keyboards/palettes. The keyboards may also use mechanisms like “long press” to handle emoji modifier sequences, further reducing the number of visible cells by subtracting the rows with modifier.

Review Note: the counts will need to be updated before publication.

Emoji Counts
  Smileys & People Animals & Nature Food & Drink Travel & Places Activ­ities Ob­jects Sym­bols Flags Other Total
char­acter 297 113 102 207 60 162 193 5 1,139
keycap seq 12 12
flag seq 258 258
tag seq 3 3
modifier seq 510 510
zwj seq + gender 43 43
zwj seq + modifier 160 160
zwj seq + gender + modifier 195 195
zwj seq other 61 1 62
Subtotal 1,266 113 102 207 60 162 205 267 0 2,382
compo­nent 5 38 43
typical dup 241 241
Total 1,512 113 102 207 60 162 205 267 38 2,666


Separate [emoji-charts] provide more information on many of these subsets and others, for example:

4 Presentation Style

Certain emoji have defined variation sequences, in which an emoji character can be followed by an invisible emoji presentation selector or text presentation selector.

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 Emoji Presentation Sequences [emoji-charts]. For details regarding the use of emoji or text presentation selectors in emoji sequences specifically, see Section 2.4 Emoji Implementation Notes.

Implementations should support both styles of presentation for the characters with emoji and text presentation sequences, if possible. Most of these characters are emoji that were unified with preexisting characters. Because people are now using emoji presentation for a broader set of characters, Unicode 9.0 adds emoji and text presentation sequences for all emoji with default text presentation (see discussion below). These are the characters shown in the column labeled “Default Text Style; no VS in U8.0” in the Text vs Emoji chart [emoji-charts].

However, even for cases in which the emoji and text presentation selectors are available, it had not been clear for implementers whether 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—a shared sense among developers of when to use emoji presentation by default is important, so that there are fewer unexpected and "jarring" presentations. Implementations need to know what the generally expected default presentation is, to promote interoperability across platforms and applications.

There had 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

These categories can be distinguished using properties listed in Annex A: Emoji Properties and Data Files. The first category are characters with Emoji=Yes and Emoji_Presentation=Yes. The second category are characters with Emoji=Yes and Emoji_Presentation=No. The third category are characters with Emoji=No.

The presentation of a given emoji character depends on the environment, whether or not there is an emoji or text presentation selector, and the default presentation style (emoji vs text). In informal environments like texting and chats, it is more appropriate for most emoji characters to appear with a colorful emoji presentation, and only get a text presentation with a text presentation selector. Conversely, in formal environments such as word processing, it is generally better for emoji characters to appear with a text presentation, and only get the colorful emoji presentation with the emoji presentation selector.

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

Emoji vs Text Display
Example Environment
with Emoji presentation selector
with Text presentation selector
with neither
word processing
plain web pages
texting, chats

4.1 Emoji and Text Presentation Selectors

As of Unicode 9.0, every emoji character with a default text presentation allows for an emoji or text presentation selector. Thus the presentation of these characters can be controlled on a character-by-character basis. The characters that can have these selectors applied to them are listed in Emoji Variation Sequences [emoji-charts].

In addition, the next two sections describe two other mechanisms for globally controlling the emoji presentation: Using language tags with locale extensions, or using special script codes. Though these are new mechanisms and not yet widely supported, vendors are encouraged to support the locale extension for most general usage such as in browsers; the special script codes may be appropriate for more specific usage such as OpenType font selection, or in APIs. For more information, see [CLDR].

4.2 Emoji Locale Extension

The locale extension “-em” can be used to specify desired presentation for characters that may have both text-style and emoji-style presentations available. There are three values that can be used, here illustrated with “sr-Latn”:

Locale Code Description
sr-Latn-u-em-emoji use an emoji presentation for emoji characters where possible
sr-Latn-u-em-text use a text presentation for emoji characters where possible
sr-Latn-u-em-default use the default presentation (only needed to reset an inherited -em setting).

This can be used in HTML, for example, with <html lang="sr-Latn-u-em-emoji">. Note that this approach does not have the disadvantages listed below for the script-tag approach.

4.3 Emoji Script

Two script subtags can be used to control the presentation style. These use script codes defined by ISO 15924 but given more specific semantics by CLDR, see unicode_script_subtag:

These script codes are not suitable for use in general language tags:

However, they may be useful by themselves in specific contexts such as OpenType font selection, or in APIs that take script codes.

4.4 Other Approaches for Control of Emoji Presentation

Other approaches for control of emoji presentation are also in use. For example, in some CSS implementations, if any font in the lookup list is an emoji font, then emoji presentation is used whenever possible.

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. From the user's perspective, the ordering in the following selection of characters sorted by DUCET appears quite random, as illustrated by the following example:

↪ ⌚ ⌛⏩ ⏰ ⏲ ⏳ ▶ ☀ ☝ ☺ 🌞 👇 🕐 😀

The emoji-ordering chart file shows an ordering for emoji characters that groups them together in a more natural fashion. This data has been incorporated into [CLDR].

☺ 😀 ☝ 👇⌛ ⏳ ⌚ ⏰ ⏲ 🕐 ☀ 🌞 ▶ ⏩ ↪

This ordering presents a cleaner and more expected ordering for sorted lists of characters. The groupings include: faces, people, body-parts, emotion, clothing, animals, plants, food, places, transport, and so on. The ordering also groups more naturally for the purpose of selection in input palettes. However, for sorting, each character must occur in only one position, which is not a restriction for input palettes. See Section 6 Input.

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.

Palette Input

The palettes need to be organized in a meaningful way for users. They typically provide a small number of broad categories, such as People, Nature, and so on. These categories typically have 100-200 emoji.

Many characters can be categorized in multiple ways: an orange is both a plant and a food. Unlike a sort order, an input palette can have multiple instances of a single character. It can thus extend the sort ordering to add characters in any groupings where people might reasonably be expected to look for them.

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 palette.

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 someone types “hourglass” on their mobile phone, they 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 someone searches for ⛽ on yelp.comexternal link, they 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 ⛽.

There is no requirement for uniqueness in both palette categories and annotations: an emoji should show up wherever users would expect it. 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.deexternal link, someone would 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 people would expect search for ⛽ to result in on yelp.co.ukexternal link. 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.

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 triangle with double vertical bar for ⏯. TTS names are also outside the current scope of this document.

8 Longer Term Solutions

The longer-term goal for implementations should be to support embedded graphics, in addition to the emoji characters. Embedded graphics allow arbitrary emoji symbols, and are not dependent on additional Unicode encoding. Some examples of this are found in Skype and LINE—see the emoji press page for more examples.

However, to be as effective and simple to use as emoji characters, 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. (Even so, such images will never interchange in environments that only support plain text, such as email addresses.) Until that time, many implementations will need to use Unicode emoji instead.

For example, mobile keyboards need to be enhanced. 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.

With such an enhanced mobile keyboard, 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 (for example, 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 file names. 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.

Annex A: Emoji Properties and Data Files

The following binary character properties are available for emoji characters. These are not formally part of the Unicode Character Database (UCD), but share the same namespace and structure.

Review Note: There are suggested short property names under “Abbr”. Feedback is welcome on the best abbreviations.

Emoji Properties
Property Abbr Property Values
Emoji Emoji =Yes for characters that are emoji
=No otherwise
Emoji_Presentation EPres =Yes for characters that have emoji presentation by default
=No otherwise
Emoji_Modifier EMod =Yes for characters that are emoji modifiers
=No otherwise
Emoji_Modifier_Base EBase =Yes for characters that can serve as a base for emoji modifiers
=No otherwise
Emoji_Component EComp =Yes for characters that normally do not appear on emoji keyboards as separate choices, such as Keycap base characters, Regional_Indicators, …. All characters in emoji sequences are either Emoji or have Emoji_Component=Yes. Implementations must not, however, assume that all Emoji_Component characters are also Emoji. There are some non-emoji characters that are used in various emoji sequences, such as TAG characters and ZWJ.
=No otherwise
Extended_Pictographic ExtPict =Yes for characters that are used to ‘future-proof’ segmentation. The Extended_Pictographic characters contain all the Emoji characters except for some Emoji_Components.
=No otherwise

If Emoji=No, then Emoji_Presentation=No, Emoji_Modifier=No, and Emoji_Modifier_Base=No.

A.1 Data Files

The following data files are included in the release (see [emoji-data]):

emoji-data.txt Property value for the properties listed in the Emoji Properties table
emoji-sequences.txt Sequences used to represent emoji
emoji-variation-sequences.txt All permissible emoji presentation sequences and text presentation sequences
emoji-test.txt Test file for emoji characters and sequences

See [emoji-charts] for a collection of charts that have been generated from the emoji data file that may be useful in helping to understand it and the related [CLDR] emoji data (annotations and ordering). These charts are not versioned, and are purely illustrative; the data to use for implementation is in [emoji-data].

Annex B: Valid Emoji Flag Sequences

While the syntax of a well-formed emoji flag sequence is defined in ED-14, only valid sequences are displayed as flags by conformant implementations, where:

Deprecated region sequences should not be generated, but may be supported for backward compatibility. Macroregion region sequences generally do not have official flags, with the exception of the UN and EU.

Some region sequences represent countries (as recognized by the United Nations, for example); others represent territories that are associated with a country. Such territories may have flags of their own, or may use the flag of the country with which they are associated. Depictions of images for flags may be subject to constraints by the administration of that region.


For additional information see the sub-section on Regional Indicator Symbols in Section 22.10 Enclosed and Square of [Unicode].

B.1 Presentation

Emoji are generally presented with a square aspect ratio, which presents a problem for flags. The flag for Qatar is over 150% 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%.) Presentation as a “waving” flag, or clipping to a circle, can help to present a uniform appearance, masking the aspect differences.

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.

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

Options for presenting an emoji_flag_sequence for which a system does not have a specific flag or other glyph include:

B.2 Ordering

The code point order of flags is by region code, which will not be intuitive for users, since that rarely matches the order of countries in the user'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.

Annex C. Valid Emoji Tag Sequences

While the syntax of a well-formed emoji tag sequence is defined in ED-14a, not all possible tag sequences are valid. The only valid sequences in this version of Unicode Emoji are defined by sections in this annex, which specify valid combinations of <tag_base> characters and <tag_spec> sequences and their expected presentation. Conformant implementations only display valid sequences as emoji, and display invalid sequences with a special presentation to show that they are invalid, such as in the examples below.

There is one common constraint on valid emoji tag sequences: the entire emoji_tag_sequence, including tag_base and tag_term, must not be longer than 32 code points. This provides a practical limit needed by many rendering systems, and is consistent with the 32-code-point buffer limit specified for the Stream-Safe Text Format as defined in UAX #15: Unicode Normalization Forms [UAX15].

In examples in this section, underlined ASCII characters represent the corresponding tag characters, while represents the tag_term.

C.1 Flag Emoji Tag Sequences

A valid flag emoji tag sequence must satisfy the following constraints:

  1. The tag_base and tag_spec are limited to the following:
    tag_base U+1F3F4 BLACK FLAG
    tag_spec (U+E0030 TAG DIGIT ZERO .. U+E0039 TAG DIGIT NINE,
  2. Let SD be the result of mapping each character in the tag_spec to a character in [0-9a-z] by subtracting 0xE0000.
    1. SD must then be a specification as per [CLDR] of either a Unicode subdivision_id (data) or a 3-digit unicode_region_subtag (data), and
    2. SD must have CLDR idStatus equal to "regular" or "deprecated".


  1. The deprecated SD values are only included for compatibility, and should not be used. They are included so that deprecations in the future do not invalidate previously valid emoji tag sequences.
  2. There is no hyphen in the tag_spec, unlike ISO subdivisions like “GB-SCT”.
  3. These flag emoji tag sequences are used to request an image for whatever is currently the flag of the specified subregion. Like the emoji flag sequences, they are not intended to provide a mechanism for versioned representations of any particular flag image.
  4. Specific platforms and programs decide which emoji extended flag sequences they will support. There is no requirement that any be supported, and no expectation that more than a small number be commonly supported by vendors.
  5. Note that SD cannot be a two-letter code like "US" or "us".

C.1.1 Sample Valid Emoji Tag Sequences

A completely tag-unaware implementation will display any any sequence of TAG characters as invisible, without any effect on adjacent characters. The following sections apply to conformant implementations that support at least one tag sequence.

An implementation may support emoji tag sequences, but not support a particular valid emoji tag sequence.

Images for unsupported valid emoji tag sequences must indicate that the sequence image is missing, by showing the base glyph with either a following “missing emoji glyph” or with an overlay “missing” glyph. The overlay glyph approach is recommended, so that the sequence would have the same width as if supported. A tag-unaware implementation (TU) will show just the base character.

Sequence Sample Images
Comments RGI sequence?
Supported Unsupported TU
🏴gbeng✦ 🏴 🏴 England


🏴gbsct✦ 🏴 🏴 Scotland Yes
🏴gbwls✦ 🏴 🏴 Wales Yes
🏴usca✦ 🏴 🏴 California No
🏴caon✦ 🏴 🏴 Ontario No
🏴chzh✦ 🏴 🏴 Canton Zürich No
🏴frnor✦ 🏴 🏴 Normandy No

C.1.2 Sample Invalid Emoji Tag Sequences

Images for invalid (but well-formed) emoji tag sequences must not be interpreted as if they were regular emoji tag sequences for a different appearance. They must instead indicate that there is something wrong with the sequence. The recommended approach is to also show the base glyph with either a following “missing emoji glyph” or with an overlay “missing” glyph.

Sequence Rec. Images TU Comments
🏴ushuh✦ 🏴 🏴 Incorrect subregion with “us’ region
🏴uksct✦ 🏴 🏴 No “uk” region so incorrect subregion
👨usca✦ 👨 👨 👨 Base invalid for flag tag emoji sequence
👨olvikan✦ 👨 👨 👨 Invalid base and tag_spec — not conformant to show as a ”demon“ or other non-missing image

C.1.3 Sample Ill-formed Emoji Tag Sequences

Images for an ill-formed tag sequence should indicate that there is something wrong with the sequence. The recommended approach is to show the ill-formed tag sequence as a “missing emoji glyph”.

Sequence Rec. Images TU Comments
Ausca✦ A A No emoji base
usca✦   No base
🏴usca 🏴 🏴 No terminator
usca   No base, no terminator


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

Thanks to Shervin Afshar, Julie Allen, Rachel Been, Nicole Bleuel, Jeremy Burge, Michele Coady, Chenjintao (陈锦涛), Chenshiwei, Peter Constable, David Corbett, Craig Cummings, Behnam Esfahbod, Doug Ewell, Agustin Fonts, Asmus Freytag, Claudia Galvan, Andrew Glass, Casey Henson, Paul Hunt, Tayfun Karadeniz, Hiroyuki Komatsu, Jennifer 8. Lee, Norbert Lindenberg, Ken Lunde, Gwyneth Marshall, Rick McGowan, Katsuhiko Momoi, Lisa Moore, Katsuhiro Ogata, Katrina Parrott, Michelle Perham, Addison Phillips, Roozbeh Pournader, Judy Safran-Aasen, Markus Scherer, Alolita Sharma, Jane Solomon, Richard Tunnicliffe, and Ken Whistler for feedback on and contributions to this document and related data and charts, including earlier versions.

Thanks to Adobe / Paul Hunt, Apple, Emojination, EmojiOne, Emojipedia, EmojiXpress, Michael Everson, Facebook, Google, iDiversicons, Microsoft, Samsung, and Twitter for supplying images for illustration in this document.

Rights to Emoji Images

The content for this section, discussing right and acknowledgments, has been moved to Emoji Images and Rights.


[CLDR] CLDR - Unicode Common Locale Data Repository
For the latest version of the associated specification (LDML), see:

[CLDR31] CLDR v31.0
[emoji-charts] The illustrative charts of emoji for the latest version
[emoji-data] The associated data files for emoji characters.
For the 11.0 versions, see

For the latest released version, see:
[JSources] The UCD sources for the JCarrier symbols
For the 9.0 version, see:
For the latest version, see:
[UAX15] UAX #15: Unicode Normalization Forms
[Unicode] The Unicode Standard
For the latest version, see:
[UTR36] UTR #36: Unicode Security Considerations


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

Revision 13

Draft 4

Draft 3

Draft 2

Draft 1

Modifications for prior versions can be found by going to Version 5.0 of this specification.