What would a "face" using ASCII characters be called (Such as ":)", "-_-". "0.0" I have heard the word "emoji" used for this but I thought emojis were the picture equivalent (Like these).

So what would a name be for these faces made out of letters/special characters?

  • 1
    They also known as smiley and emotag.
    – Eilia
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 14:18
  • 3
    Emojis are usually depicted as pictographs and emoticons are depicted as characters. [ emoji: 😊 , emoticon: :) ]
    – ermanen
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 14:36

2 Answers 2



An emotion icon, better known by the portmanteau emoticon (/ɨˈmoʊtɨkɒn/) is a metacommunicative pictorial representation of a facial expression that, in the absence of body language and prosody, serves to draw a receiver's attention to the tenor or temper of a sender's nominal verbal communication, changing and improving its interpretation. It expresses — usually by means of punctuation marks (though it can include numbers and letters) — a person's feelings or mood, though as emoticons have become more popular, some devices have provided stylized pictures that do not use punctuation.


  • One wonders why they didn't go with a simple abbreviation (m)proafe 8)7 Just <3 that description! :P
    – oerkelens
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 14:01
  • "Emoticon" is the more formal word for such character sequences, but "smily" (or "smiley") is often used in less formal contexts (even for emoticons that aren't necessarily smiling :p).
    – neminem
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 20:59

This is an extra piece of information.

emoji are the picture icons. You are correct. And ":-)"-like faces are "Emoticons", as RexYuan answers.

Some of the other punctual faces are technically "dongers" or "kaomoji" depend on what characters they are made of. Dongers usually have thinner strokes like ᕙ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ᕗ , while kaomoji characters are less gnarly e.g. (╯‵□′)╯.

Since the term "emoji" is better known, people might refer it to as dongers or kaomoji. It could be picky to argue the terminology under some circumstances.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    I think this answer is more applicable to Japanese than English. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 15:00
  • 1
    I think it's important to distinguish that kaomoji almost exclusively refers to faces that are right-side-up, like o_o and such, not faces that are rotated sideways such as ;D - the ones that are sideways are usually just referred to as emoticons.
    – recognizer
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 15:48
  • Agreed: I have heard 'emoji' used, though less commonly. I've never heard "dongers" or "kaomoji" used, and I basically live on the internet. This answer may be true in Japanese, not convinced it's true in English.
    – neminem
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 21:01
  • "dongers" was born in the western part of the internet.... see dongerlist.com Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 15:22

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